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Tuesday, 30 April, 2002, 16:32 GMT 17:32 UK
Ethiopian girl recounts night of terror
Endieyewho Asmare
Endieyewho Asmare's husband was jailed for two days
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By the BBC's Ellene Mocria
Addis Ababa

The young girl, 15 years old, sat with her back to the audience.

She wept many times and sometimes appeared to lose control.

But time and again, she would pick up from where she had stopped and continued to relate her night of terror.

"My name is Endieyewho Asmare. I am from Assosa," she begun her testimony.

I kept on bleeding so they poured two jerry cans full of water over me and left

Endieyewho Asmare

"At the age of 13 I was married because my mother was ill.

"One night my husband came while I was asleep. He came with six other men and closed all the doors including the gate.

"Then they picked me up from where I was sleeping, held me down and said that they were going to circumcise me.

"I told them that I was circumcised when I was a little girl and that they shouldn't be doing it to me again.


"But they came with their knives and they held me down.

"I was terrorized and screamed over and over again: 'Don't do this to me, don't do this to me, please get out!'

"But they refused and kept holding me down.

"With the knives they were holding they just cut me up (mutilated my genitals). It was really painful.


"Eventually, they brought something and put it inside me to stop the bleeding but I kept on bleeding so they poured two jerry cans full of water over me and left."

Endieyewho shocked a meeting on violence against women in Ethiopia by publicly speaking out about her experience of female circumcision, or genital mutilation.

Endieyewho's case has been dragging on for two years without a verdict... the accused has now become the accuser.

Emebet Olana, lawyer

"Seven days later, my mother-in-law came to visit on her way to the market and when she saw me, she was shocked.

"The bleeding had not stopped, the wound had not healed and there were flies all over me.

"She ran to my family and my mother came and took me back home.

"Later, my father took me to the Ethiopian Women Lawyers Association (EWLA) branch office in Assosa and they put me in hospital where I stayed for one month."

Once again, she burst into tears; sobs and sniffing could be heard among the audience.

Endieyewho managed to gain control again and boldly went on.

Two-day sentence

"After a month in hospital, I was sent to a place called Mother Teresa's Home where I stayed for a month.

"With the help of the EWLA, I have been able to file a case against my husband.

"The association had me checked up at the hospital again where I got a medical certificate confirming what happened to me and gave the police a copy.

Men and women are not perceived equal in courts.

Emebet Olana, lawyer

"My husband was jailed only for two days and released."

The audience was in an uproar, but she had not finished her testimony and courageously continued, in between bouts of tears.

"Then one day, my husband came with people from the Urban Dwellers Association because he had accused my family of taking me, his wife, away.

"They wanted to force me to go back but I refused.

"Nothing has been done about the criminal case we filed against him. Instead we (my family and I) are being hounded by my husband's people.

"And we don't know what to do about that.

"Now I have come here to Addis Ababa to tell about these injustices."


Someone came up and helped her get down from the stage.

The audience was shocked into silence - her sobbing the only sound in the large hall.

The Coordinator of the Ethiopian Women Lawyers Association (EWLA) branch office in Assosa, Emebet Olana, was with Endieyewho when I caught up with them later on.

"What happened to her was extremely brutal... She was very young when it happened.


"Of course, as everybody knows, there are many problems regarding legal procedures in this country.

"For example Endieyewho's case has been dragging on for two years without a verdict.

Ethiopian women
More than 70% of Ethiopian women face the knife

"It has further become complicated because the accused has now become the accuser.

"Although he and his friends have been charged, he has recently filed a civil case against her family claiming that they have taken his wife away from him.

"There are many cases related to women such as wife battering, abduction, divorce cases, land ownership, rape, sexual harassment and others.

"Unfortunately, regardless of the fact that the law is supposed not to be discriminatory, men and women are not perceived as equal in courts.

"So I don't know when Endieyewho's case will be finalized."


Nearly all of Ethiopia's ethnic groups practise Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) except a few in the southern region and Gambella.

According to the latest statistics - from 1998 - 73% of Ethiopian girls had undergone FGM.

This is an improvement from 1990 when, according to the same statistics, 90% of girls were found to have been mutilated.

Endieyewho Asmare and Emebet Olana hope that new studies being undertaken will show a similar reduction in the number of women facing the knife.

See also:

22 Feb 02 | Country profiles
Country profile: Ethiopia
22 Feb 02 | Africa
Timeline: Ethiopia
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