Female genital mutilation in Kenya, and Africa by extension, still remains one of the worst forms of violence against women. What’s even worse is the fact that this cruelty is being perpetrated on girls who are as young as five years.
Although there have been increased efforts to campaign against this vice, many girls and women in general continue to suffer in silence. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), at least 125 million females alive today across the world have undergone FGM. They further estimate that about 3 million girls are at risk of undergoing FGM every year.
According to a report published by WHO, Africa tops the list of countries where female genital mutilation is rampant. The report estimates that about 90% of women who undergo FGM in countries like Nigeria, Mali, Eritrea and Ghana are below the age of five.
This study further indicates that FGM is widespread in countries within the Central and West African region. But why does it still occur?
Reasons for Continued Violation
According to Hilary Burrage, a renowned sociologist, author and blogger, female genital mutilation is still rampant due to a number of reasons. She highlights retrogressive traditions and beliefs as the main cause of continued violation of young girls through FGM.
“In some communities FGM is seen as a rite of passage, an initiation to adulthood, occurring as the girl approaches puberty and becomes a woman,” Burrage claims.
She adds that some communities do it as a way of preserving family honor while others see it as a way to “cleanse” a girl. The latter reason comes from the belief that it is more hygienic and will stop unpleasant genital secretions and odors as the girl enters puberty.
Burrage also notes that “excision of the clitoris is ‘believed’ to reduce a woman’s sexual pleasure or desire, thus reducing the likelihood that she will become sexually active with anyone other than her husband.”
Efforts to Curb the Menace
In Kenya, a group of young Maasai men better known as morans have joined in the fight against female genital mutilation. This is seen as a significant milestone in winning the war because FGM is a long-held tradition their community. For many years, the Maasai morans have loathed the idea of marrying an uncircumcised woman.
Josphat, one of the morans helping in the fight against FGM, decided to speak against the tradition after witnessing an unsafe FGM procedure that almost ended his sister’s life:
“When my own sister, Bella, was cut she experienced a lot of bleeding and had to go to hospital for a week. I saw how FGM could ruin someone’s life and I thought it was important for me to take the initiative and work to abandon the practice,” he said in an interview with Global Citizen.
In 2011, the Kenyan parliament passsed the Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act, outlawing the practice of FGM and safeguarding against violation of a person’s mental or physical integrity through the practice of FGM. The Kenyan media has also been vocal in sensitizing the public on the effects of female genital mutilation on the victim and society as a whole.
Although many girls have been rescued from the dangers of FGM, many more still continue to suffer. It’s the duty of all of us to stand up against the vice and say enough is enough.