Two young sisters have died in Somalia after undergoing female genital mutilation (FGM), CNN reports.
Aasiyo and Khadijo Abdi Warsame, ages 10 and 11, were both cut by the same circumciser in their rural village of Arawda. The girls bled for 24 hours after the procedure and ultimately died from complications associated with the cutting, Aden Mohammed, director of the women's rights group Galkayo Education Center for Peace and Development, told CNN.
The sisters passed away as their mother was bringing them to a health center on Tuesday. The tragic news comes just two months after the government of Somalia announced that it would pursue its first FGM prosecution, following the death of a 10-year-old girl, Deeqa Dahir Nuur, who was subjected to FGM.
"It is another sad story coming even before the dust settles and action is taken in the Deeqa case. Yet there seems to be reluctance in discussing and passing the anti-FGM law," Mohammed told CNN.
"We hope that this will serve as a wake-up call for those responsible to see the need to have the law in place to protect girls from this heinous practice," she said.
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FGM, which is often performed by untrained midwives using knives, razors, or glass, can cause life-threatening bleeding, infections, and infertility. The procedure is typically done around puberty to preserve girls' virginities and make them more appealing for marriage. Despite common misconceptions, FGM is a cultural practice, not a religious one.
Deputy Prime Minister Mahdi Mohamed Guuled spoke out against the practice, common in Somalia, in July, after news of Nuur's death broke.
"This is an historic moment for ending FGM in Somalia. This cannot be happening in our country in the 21st century. It is not part of our religion, and it will not be part of our culture," Mohamed Guuled told CNN.
FGM remains legal in Somalia, which has one of the highest rates of FGM in the world. It is estimated that 98% of Somali women between the ages of 15 and 49 have undergone the procedure — most undergo FGM before they turn 15, according to the World Health Organization.
Internationally, FGM is recognized as a human rights violation. However, several other African countries, including Mali, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Egypt, and Sudan have rates of FGM above 80%.
FGM affects 200 million women and girls worldwide and putting an end to this practice is essential for achieving gender equality.