Somalia’s coronavirus lockdown has led to a tremendous rise in female genital mutilation (FGM), with circumcisers going door to door proposing to cut girls stuck at home during the pandemic, according to Plan International.
The crisis is threatening aims to abolish the practice in Somalia, which has the world’s highest FGM rate, with about 98% of women having been cut, the charity warned.
“We’ve seen a massive increase in recent weeks,” said Sadia Allin, Plan International’s head of mission in Somalia. “We want the government to ensure FGM is included in all COVID responses.”
she said nurses across the country had also reported a surge in requests from parents wanting them to carry out FGM on their daughters while they were off school because of the lockdown, the Guardian reported.
FGM, which affects 200 million girls and women globally, involves the partial or total removal of the external genitalia. In Somalia the vaginal opening is also often sewn up – a practice called infibulation.
The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has warned that the pandemic could lead to an extra 2 million girls worldwide being cut in the next decade as the crisis stymies global efforts to end the practice.
Allin said families in Somalia were taking advantage of school closures to carry out FGM so that the girls had time to recover from the ritual, which can take weeks.