Good Practice: Harmonising Traditional Norms and National Law in Oromia

Female Genital Mutilation in Oromia

According to estimates by the World Health Organization, female genital mutilation (FGM) affects some 140 million women and girls worldwide – and another 3 million girls are circumcised every year. FGM is mainly practised in 28 African states, to a lesser extent in some Asian countries and, as people move from one country to another, in countries of immigration, too. FGM covers all practices involving the partial or complete removal of the external female genitalia and/or other injury to the female sexual organs, whether for cultural or other, non-therapeutic reasons.

WHO classification of different types of FGM

Type I: Partial or total removal of the clitoris and/or the prepuce (clitoridectomy).

Type II: Partial or total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora, with or without excision   of the labia majora (excision).

Type III: Narrowing of the vaginal orifice with creation of a covering seal by cutting and   appositioning the labia minora and/or the labia majora, with or without excision of   the clitoris (infibulation).

Type IV: All other harmful procedures to the female genitalia for non-medical purposes,   for example: pricking, piercing, incising, scraping and cauterization.

In Ethiopia, about 74 % of women have undergone FGM (DHS-20051). FGM is practised by all religions, by Muslims and Orthodox Christians as it is by the Falasha, Ethiopians of Jewish faith. Prevalence amongst the Somali and Afar is reported to be 99%. Amongst the Oromo, the rate is 90 % and amongst the Amhara around 79 %. In the southern regions, approximately 60 % of women are affected by FGM. The age at which circumcision occurs varies greatly depending on the different ethnicities and regions. Approximately half of Ethiopian girls are circumcised in their first year of life. In the Afar and Amhara regions, it normally takes place during early childhood and amongst the Oromo once girls are around seven years of age.

In 1994, Ethiopia’s constitution adopted a law on harmful traditional practices. Pursuant to this new article, women have the right to protection by the state from harmful customs. “Laws, customs and practices that oppress women or cause bodily or mental harm to them are prohibited.” In 2004, the Ethiopian Government modified the country’s penal code by making FGM a criminal act. However, no complaint has been filed to date.

Some of the reasons for female genital mutilation (FGM) exclusively listed by men are:

− That uncircumcised girls become mannerless, aggressive and destroy household utensils

− fear of getting no husband by acting against the tradition of the community and

− not to be considered as uncivilized citizens

For more information read the following article: Harmonising traditional norms and national law – Oromia (GTZ 08)