The Somalian government has announced a plan to ban female genital mutilation (FGM), which is practised on some 98% of girls aged between four and 11 in the east African nation. The country's minister of women and human rights said the government is trying to introduce a ban that can outlaw the practice nationwide.

What is FGM?

FGM, usually carried out for cultural and religious purposes, involves the alteration and removal of female genitals for non-medical reasons and is considered a violation of fundamental women's rights. It is still practised in several countries in Africa and the Middle East, and in some countries in Asia and Latin America.

Haemorrhage and infection deriving from the practice can cause girls, usually under the age of 15, to die. Long-term consequences include recurrent bladder or urinary tract infections, cysts, infertility, childbirth complications and newborn deaths.

In May, FGM was banned in Nigeria with a law that also forbids men from abandoning women and children without economic support. The practice has been also outlawed in another 18 African countries, including Benin, Central African Republic, Egypt and South Africa.

''Time has come for us to eradicate this bad practice and protect the rights of girls and women in our country,'' Minister Sahra Mohamed Ali Samatar was quoted by Horseed Media as saying. The announcement follows the decision of the Somalian northern region of Putland to outlaw the practice in 2014, with Islamic scholars issuing a fatwa –a religious edict – clarifying the mutilation is not part of the Islamic doctrine.

Somalia's new constitution, which was adopted in 2012, bans FGM and states the practice amounts to torture. The document's Article 15, which guarantees people's rights of liberty and security, reads: "Every person has the right to physical integrity and can not be violated. Female circumcision is a cruel and degrading customary practice and is tantamount to torture. The circumcision of girls is prohibited."