The COVID-19 pandemic has itself caused unimaginable devastation, with the global death toll reaching well over half a million by July of 2020. But the health crisis has also created a web of other crises. Huge spikes in unemployment, increased medical homophobia and racism, a global economic crash, a surge domestic abuse cases -- the list goes on and on. Like a fire through dry grass, COVID-19 seems to burn the most quickly through communities that are already suffering. In Somalia, a country ranked 194th out of 195 on the Global Health Security Index, this is evident in the massive spike in female genital mutilation, or FGM, that has been recorded since the beginning of the coronavirus crisis.
Sign the petition to implore Dr. Mamunur Rahman Malik, the World Health Organization (WHO)'s country representative for Somalia, to include the FGM crisis in the country's overall COVID-19 response. The WHO is leading Somalia's response to the pandemic, and must consider FGM a part of the overall crisis.
The FGM procedure is as brutal as it sounds. Girls, the majority of which are younger than 15 and some as young as 10, are forced to go under the knife. Their clitorises are sliced from their bodies, often without pain management or anesthesia. That comes as no surprise, as this procedure is wholly unnecessary and has absolutely no medical reason behind it -- why would doctors worry about pain when what they are doing is simply to torture and mutilate? This procedure exists only to police women's bodies, and take away any sexual pleasure. Some of these poor girls also undergo infibulation, during which the vaginal opening is sewn completely shut.
Because of a nationwide lockdown and school closures, girls and their families are increasingly at home. This means that many parents, who have total control of their daughters, are using this time to have FGM performed. Even more horrifying are the reports that cutters, the people who carry out FGM, are going door to door and asking if there are any little girls for them to cut. Due to the devastating effects that COVID-19 has had on the economy, these cutters are desperate for work and therefore extremely dangerous.
FGM is technically illegal under Somalia's constitution, but there has been no proof that the ban has ever been enforced. It is estimated that 98% of women in Somalia have been cut. The law may carry the correct sentiment, but if almost every woman and girl is still being brutalized by FGM, then the law may as well not exist.
Women who were cut as girls report that the trauma and pain follow them for their entire lives. FGM is a female health crisis directly fueled by the COVID-19 crisis. The WHO is already leading Somalia's COVID-19 response, which absolutely includes this rise in FGM.
Sign the petition to demand Dr. Mamunur Rahman Malik address the female genital mutilation crisis in Somalia immediately!