SOMALI (3,3+,3,4,4,4;1,1) (Somalia) (EHRAF





IndexAfricaSomalia → Somali

(Somali, Darod

[continued from Somalia]


“There is some indication that infant betrothal may have been common in the past, but whether this is true or not, it is certainly not the general practice now (Lewis, 1962:p16[1]; Lewis, 1994:p33[2]). According to Grassivaro and Abdisamed (1985)[3], the practice of female circumcision was universal in Somalia; the percentage of circumcised women was 99.3%. Infibulation is the commonest type of circumcision used (75.7%). The age of circumcision varies from birth to 15; the average being 7.5. The type of circumcision does not seem to be influenced by some environmental variables (e.g. birth place of parents or place of circumcision), it is primarily determined by the population of the individual region. Infibulation is accepted to the greatest extent by the pastoral populations of the middle/northern regions, principally in Ogaden and in the 4 Somalian regions on which it borders: Togdheer, Nugal, Muddug, Galgadud. In the southern regions (Upper, Middle, Lower Giuba) amongst rural populations or populations with a cattle/cultivation economy, there are also attenuated types of circumcision: sunna and clitoridectomy (20 to 30%). An account of female circumcision was provided by Lee Barnes and Janice Boddy[4]. By the time she is nine, Aman has undergone a ritual circumcision ceremony; at eleven, her innocent romance with a white boy leads to a murder; at thirteen she is given away in an arranged marriage to a stranger.


In precapitalist northern pastoral Somali, the following was noted:


“As soon as she learned to walk and talk, [a girl] was to acquire the skills of women’s work and to imitate, even in play, the child care, matweaving, buttermaking and cooking tasks of the women of her household and camp. From such a young age too a young girl was learned about the central value of her sexual organs and the need to hide and protect them; the genital operation which she underwent before she was nine or ten years drove these points home. By the time a girl reached puberty and became nubile, she had mastered all women’s work skills. While north Islamic and customary law prescribed that she continue to guard her virginity, she was at this age allowed to participate in customary courtship practices, or attract a husband and thus find her niche as a wife in a new productive and reproductive unit: the household” (Kapteijns, 1995:p249)[5].




Further reading:


§         Bayoudh, F. et al. (1995) Etude d'une coutume en Somalie la circoncision des filles, Médecine Tropicale 55:238-42

§         Dirie, M. A. & Lindmark, G. (1991) Female circumcision in Somalia and women's motives, Acta Obstetricia & Gynecol Scand 79:581-5

§         Dirie, M. A. (1988) Female Circumcision in Somalia: Medical and Social Implications. Somali Academy of Sciences and Arts. Mogadishu

§         Grassivaro Gallo, P. (1985a) Female Circumcision in Somalia: Some Psychosocial Aspects, Genus 41,1-2:133-47.

§         Grassivaro Gallo, P. (1985b) Female Circumcision in Somalia: Anthropological Traits, Anthropologischer Anzeiger 43,4:311-26

§         Grassivaro Gallo, P. (1986) La Circoncisione Femminile in Somalia: Una Recerca sul Campo. F Angeli, Milano

§         Grassivaro Gallo, P. & Franco Viviani (1988) Female Circumcision in Somalia, Mankind Quart 29,1-2:165-80

§         Grassivaro Gallo, P. et al. (1985) Female circumcision in the graphic reproduction of a group of Somali girls: cultural aspects and their psychological experiences, Psychpathol Africaine 10,2:165-90

§         Hosken, Fran P. (1993) The Hosken Report: Genital and Sexual Mutilation of Females. Fourth Revised Edition. Women’s International Network News: Lexington, MA

§         Muse Ahmed, S. (1988) Research on female circumcision in Somalia, Inter-African committee on traditional practices newsletter 5:10-1

§         Johansen,R Elise B (2002) Pain as a counterpoint to culture: Toward an analysis of pain associated with infibulation among Somali immigrants in Norway, Medical Anthropology Quarterly 16,3:312 et seq.

§         Khaja, Khadija, Female circumcision: Life histories of Somali women. PhD thesis, University of Utah, 2004, 210 pages

§         Jaldesa Guyo W.; Ian Askew Carolyne Njue Monica Wanjiru (February 2005) Female Genital Cutting among the Somali of Kenya and Management of its Complications. Frontiers in Reproductive Health Program Population Council []




Janssen, D. F., Growing Up Sexually. Volume I. World Reference Atlas. 0.2 ed. 2004. Berlin: Magnus Hirschfeld Archive for Sexology

Last revised: Aug 2005



[1] Lewis, I. M. (1962) Marriage and the Family in Northern Somaliland. Kampala, Uganda: East African Institute of Social Research. “Premarital relations are extremely formal and love-play and sexual intercourse before marriage generally regarded with abhorrence. A high value is placed on virginity in women at marriage, and the practice of female infibulation is specifically designed to protect maidenhood” (p17).

[2] Lewis, I. M. (1994) Blood and Bone. Lawrenceville, N.J.: Red Sea Press

[3] Grassivaro, G. P. & Abdisamed, M. (1985) Female circumcision in Somalia: anthropological traits, Anthropol Anz 43,4:311-26

[4] Barnes. L. & Boddy, J. (1994) Aman: The Story of a Somali Girl. Toronto: Knopf

[5] Kapteijns, L. (1995) Gender Relations and the Transformation of the Northern Somali Pastoral Tradition, Int J Afr Hist Stud 28,2:241-59