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Somalian women: the facts we need to know.

This was written on the eve of USA troops being sent to Somalia.

For many months now the terrible, senseless violence and civil war in Somalia has been shown on TV: dying shrunken children held by emaciated desperate women in rags often too famished to eat when they are finally reached by some international rescue teams. These pictures of human degradation are followed by those of healthy young Somali men and boys, well fed and laughing, brandishing their automatic weapons and visibly enjoying the violence.

These young Somali men, some barely teenagers, who have been called "hoodlums" by the State Department decision makers are preventing any food from reaching those dying from hunger: their own women and children. But none of the TV commentators has ever talked about the gender of the victims they show every day. The Secretary General of the United Nations who demanded that the world pay more attention to the terrible drought and famine in Somalia has also failed to mention that it is women and children who are most of the victims of the horrendous civil war made by power-hungry men.

The truth must finally be told: the young Somali men with guns have grown up in families where all girls and women are infibulated--and no Somalian female is allowed to escape these "traditions" enforced by men who hold all the power in each family. At an early age, when a girl is still too young to resist or escape she has her clitoris cut out and all external genitalia removed by force. Then the bleeding sides of the large lips are sewn up or held together by thorns or a paste and the girl with her legs tied up is left lying on a mat for several weeks or until the wound has healed. closing the entrance to the vagina except for a tiny opening created by inserting a splinter of wood or reed.

Why are Somalian girls so terribly mutilated--there is no ceremony attached to this. Because men require a closed bride as price for marriage and marriage is compulsory in Somali society. These mutilations go on in each family and have been practiced as long as anyone knows. Men make all the decisions in each family as well as in Somali society, as one can see now on TV.

A boy who has grown up exposed to such brutality practiced in his own family on all girls and women is accustomed to abuse every female at will, and has no restraint or compassion for human suffering. He sees girls and women being purchased by men--polygamy is the rule--who inspect them to see if they are properly closed before they pay the bride price and before they can cut them open for intercourse. And intercourse has to be frequent to keep the wound from closing again. But the most terrible problems that result from these mutilations happen in childbirth.

These are the traditions in Somalia--practiced by all including the leaders and the Somalian men who now live in the USA. As long as we shut our eyes and ignore such horrendous violence in the name of tradition there is no stopping Somali man who have learned violence in their own family--and the civil war will go on and on. By now the whole country has broken down into warring clans with war-lords hijacking international food shipments for starving women and children. Law and order has collapsed with men totally out of control who have been armed for years by the two competing international powers--the USSR and then the USA. These armaments are now used to capture food supplies which have become the only means for power.

A society where men traditionally use their power to mutilate their own female children is not viable in our world. Men who practice such brutality in their own families know no restraint: Somalia is reaping the results of its own traditions. The victims once again are women and their young children. But no one speaks for them!

Fran P. Hosken was temporary advisor to the World Health Organization on Female Genital Mutilation and visited Somalia three times, most recently in 1988 to speak at an International Conference by the Somali Women's Democratic Organization on "Strategies to bring about Change"'-for the eradication of female genital mutilation. Hosken is also the editor of the WIN News, $40 per year from The Women's International Network News, 187Grant Street, Lexington, MA 02173, Tel (617) 862-9431. WIN also publishes the Childbirth Picture Book in several languages, a flip chart and slide set. Readers can request a sample book for $3 plus $1 postage in English, Spanish, French or Arabic. A Somali translation is underway.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Association of Labor Assistants & Childbirth Educators
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:mistreatment of Somalian women by their countrymen
Author:Hosken, Fran P.
Publication:Special Delivery
Date:Dec 22, 1992
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