Why It Sucks To Be a Woman in Somalia

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Those shoes you want but can’t afford? That fender bender you just got into? Yeah, those things suck but they don’t suck.


You know what legitimately truly actually heartbreakingly sucks? Being a woman in Somalia right now.

Why? Nearly every woman in the East African nation has had her genitalia cut or sewn closed.


A bunch of people toss around words like “religious” and “social acceptance” to defend the practice. Others uphold it as a way to preserve a woman’s virginity. (Let’s just ignore for the moment the fact that a woman might not want her virginity preserved…)

But let’s not sugar coat it: the practice really is not defensible. That’s not some Western viewpoint. Female genital mutilation sounds clinical and cold. But it’s a very real, very dangerous, very painful process.

And most importantly, most of the girls around the world who experience it want it to stop. They deserve a voice.

FGM, as it is neatly packaged in crisis reports and world studies, can impact future sexual relations and complicate childbirth. it has broad implications for gender inequalities.


And the fact that there are myriad reasons the practice is likely to continue is why it sucks to be a woman in Somalia right now.

The rate of cutting in Somalia is higher than in any other country in the world. And it’s not likely to go down anytime soon.


Here’s why.

One, there is no strong central government to support laws against it, even where they exist. Families can face harsh ostracism if they skip the procedure and many women feel compelled to subject their daughters to it even when they know the risks.


The lack of a developed health and legal system also makes it difficult to find Somalis willing to talk about the risks, meaning it’s hard to spread awareness.

The broader issue, though, is that women and girls don’t have the same political or educational opportunities as men and boys. If women publicly oppose cutting and are cast out, they have no way to support themselves.


So the vicious cycle continues.

Good laws that governments actually enforce and nonprofit outreach would help. So would drawing women into the labor market. But success will be limited without a central government as a pillar and that’s a ways off at best.


And that’s why it sucks to be a woman in Somalia right now.

Stay tuned for next week’s installment. Unfortunately, there’s always somewhere in the world where it sucks to be a woman.


Emily DeRuy is a Washington, D.C.-based associate editor, covering education, reproductive rights, and inequality. A San Francisco native, she enjoys Giants baseball and misses Philz terribly.

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