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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Have we made progress in Somalia after 30 years of interventions? Attitudes toward female circumcision among people in the Hargeisa district

Abdi A Gele1*, Bente P Bø1 and Johanne Sundby2

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Social Science, Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Science, Pilestredet 35, Oslo 0167, Norway

2 Department of General Practice and Community Medicine, Institute of Health and Society, University of Oslo, Kirkeveien 166, Oslo, 0450, Norway

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BMC Research Notes 2013, 6:122  doi:10.1186/1756-0500-6-122

Published: 27 March 2013

Abstract

Background

Female circumcision is a major public health problem that largely contributes to the ill-health of women and their children globally. Accordingly, the international community is committed to take all possible measures to abolish the practice that is internationally considered to be absolutely intolerable. While the practice is a social tradition shared by people in 28 African countries, there is no country on earth where FC is more prevalent than in Somalia. Yet, since the early 1990s, there is no quantitative study that has investigated whether the perception towards the practice among Somali men and women in Somalia has improved or not. Thus, this cross-sectional quantitative study examines the attitudes toward the practice among people in Hargeisa, Somalia.

Methods

A cross-sectional study of 215 randomly selected persons, including both men and women, was conducted in Hargeisa, Somalia from July to September of 2011. Participants were interviewed using structured questionnaires, with questions including the circumcision status of the female participants, the type of circumcision, if one has the intention to circumcise his/her daughter, whether one supports the continuation or discontinuation of the practice and men’s perceptions toward having an uncircumcised woman as a wife.

Result

The findings show that 97% of the study’s participants were circumcised with no age differences. Of this, 81% were subjected to Type 3, while 16% were subjected to either Type 1 or 2 and only 3% were left uncircumcised. Approximately 85% of the respondents had intention to circumcise their daughters, with 13% were planning the most radical form. Among men, 96% preferred to marry circumcised women, whereas overall, 90% of respondents supported the continuation of the practice. The vast majority of the study’s respondents had a good knowledge of the negative health effects of female circumcision. In multivariate logistic regressions, with an adjustment for all other important variables, female circumcision (the Sunna form) is a religious requirement 16.5 (2.43-112.6) and the Sunna form is not harmful 25.1(2.35-281.1), are the two factors significantly associated with the continuation of female circumcision. Moreover, females were less likely to support the continuation of FC compared to their male counterparts (aOR 0.07; CI: 0.05-0.88).

Conclusion

The study shows that the support towards the persistence of the practice is profoundly high in Somalia. People are aware of the health and human rights effect of female circumcision, and yet they support the continuation of the practice. Therefore, over 30 years of campaigns with limited progress demand an alternative approach towards the eradication of female circumcision in Somalia.