Somalia: Female Genital Mutilation and Marriage

Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office written question – answered on 22nd September 2020.

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Photo of Baroness Stroud Baroness Stroud Conservative

To ask Her Majesty's Government what is their strategy to address (1) female genital mutilation, and (2) child marriage, in Somalia, following the introduction of the Sexual Intercourse Related Crimes Bill in the Parliament of Somalia; and what protections they have established for the protection of British-Somali citizens from (1) female genital mutilation, and (2) child marriage.

Photo of Baroness Sugg Baroness Sugg Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)

The UK strategy towards Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and early, child and forced marriage in Somalia is incredibly important. We continue our efforts towards ending FGM in all its forms and tackling early, child and forced marriage. The UK Government is lobbying the Government of Somalia to table a bill which is compatible with Somalia's obligations under international law and commitments on the protection of children and women. In 2019 we helped over 24,000 community members participate in conversations to end FGM and child marriage; engaged over 2,000 religious leaders in protecting and promoting human rights for women and girls; and supported the development of plans by over 40 communities to foster more dialogue and action on these issues.

In 2018 the Somali cabinet drafted a Sexual Offence Bill (SOB) which could be instrumental in securing basic sexual and reproductive rights for women. This SOB has not been tabled since its creation, partly due to resistance from clerics and several members of the parliament who find the SOB to not be sufficiently sharia compliant. On 8 August 2020, a modified and regressive version of the SOB, which would for example legalise child marriage, was tabled by parliament. The bill is contentious and civil society, and other development partners are working to stop it from being passed by parliament. BE Mogadishu raises the issue regularly with Parliamentarians at all levels, and supports civil society contacts to do the same.

The UK is equally committed to protecting British-Somali citizens who may be at risk of FGM or forced marriage. The UK Government has a dedicated Forced Marriage Unit leading efforts to combat forced marriage and FGM both at home and abroad and has already provided support to dozens of potential victims in Somalia last year. This support includes UK funded safe-houses in Somalia, including Somaliland, that provide British Nationals with temporary shelter and support, while the consular team establish a plan to repatriate them. Additional support is then available for victims who have returned to the UK.

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