By Alex Omari
Female Genital Mutilation has been a cultural practice for some of the Kenyan communities over decades but it’s time we all stood up and said “No to FGM”. Despite it being illegal, some people still practice it privately. In 2011, Kenya banned female genital mutilation by passing a law to make it illegal to practice FGM or to take someone abroad to be ‘cut’ famously known as the “ Prohibition of FGM Act”. Faith, a 10 year old girl (not her real name) told me of her story of how she went through the terrible ordeal of going through the knife.
‘‘When I closed school for the December holidays, I was told by my mum that we are to visit our aunt for the festive season. My aunt and my mum had planned it all leaving me in darkness .When we were at my auntie’s place; I was told that I would remain behind as mum left. After that, a strange woman visited our house and that’s when the aunt said that I was going to be a big girl ’’
FGM is very painful, traumatizes girls and results in numerous negative health consequences that last for ages and can even cause death. This is a form of violence against girls that oppresses them and hence prevents the girls from fully participating in the nation’s progress.
Over 140 million girls and women globally, are estimated to have undergone some form of FGM. Currently, more than three million girls, majority being below 15 years of age, undergo the procedure each year. The just released recent Kenya Demographic Health Survey (KDHS, 2014) indicates that 21 percent of women reported to being circumcised, as compared with 27 percent in 2008-09 and 32 percent in 2003.
Research shows that FGM is practiced by different ethnic within the country in different ways. It is far more prevalent among the Somali (93.6percent), Kisii (84.4 percent) and Maasai (77.9 percent) communities.
From the survey data, Kenya achieved an annual rate of reduction of 6 percent in the prevalence of FGM between 2008 and 2014. FGM has both immediate and long-term effects on women’s health and these include severe bleeding, infection, shock and recurrent urinary tract infections.
The current statistics indicate that we are heading towards the right direction though much needs to be done if we are to realize vision 2030 developmental goals. This can only be achieved if we have uncompromising leadership and political will supported by on toes law enforcement and effective community mobilization. The social norm change practice should be felt at the community level.