FGM in Kenya
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is a harmful practice that has detrimental effects on the physical, social and emotional well being of women and girls.
The World Health Organization defines it as “...all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non medical reasons.” A number of communities in Kenya consider it as a cultural requirement for girls to transition into womanhood.
Here are some of the reasons why FGM is considered to be a serious violation of the human rights of the women who are forced to undergo it.
- FGM causes physical and mental health problems for women and girls. It can lead to severe pain, bleeding, infections, cysts, infertility, complications at childbirth, and even death. It can cause psychological trauma, such as anxiety, depression, post traumatic stress disorder, and low self esteem.
- FGM affects the sexual and reproductive health of women and girls. It can reduce and even completely eliminate their sexual pleasure and desire. Many women who have undergone this ritual report that sexual intercourse is very difficult and painful for them. The repercussion is that intimacy is lost in the marriage. This often leads to a breakdown of that relationship and the home and the home in general.
- FGM harms the family and society as a whole. It can increase the risk of maternal and newborn mortality, which can have devastating consequences for the family and community. It perpetuates gender inequality and violence against women and girls. Furthermore, it unduly burdens the health care system and the economy due to the costs associated with treating the complications that arise with it.
Kenya has taken significant steps to eradicate FGM and protect the rights of women who are living in communities that still practice this extremely harmful rite of passage. To address the issue, the country has implemented various laws and legal frameworks. The Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act, 2011 makes it illegal to practice FGM in the country. This law criminalizes FGM and prescribes penalties for those found guilty. It establishes an Anti FGM board which would be responsible for coordinating and overseeing the implementation of efforts to end the practice.
Additionally, the National Policy for the Eradication of Female Genital Mutilation was revised in 2019 to align with the provisions of the new Constitution of Kenya (2010) and other relevant legislation. This policy aims to eliminate FGM by implementing high impact strategies across sectors such as health, education, security, access to justice, and public information.
In addition to strengthening the legal and institutional framework for combating FGM, Kenya has implemented various interventions to address FGM and child marriage among five communities (Rendille, Maasai, Pokot, Samburu, and Somali) that have high prevalence rates of these practices. These interventions include the provision of education, health, and protection services for girls and women. The country has also seen a rise in the number of communities that have publicly declared their abandonment of FGM, following the introduction of alternative rites of passage that celebrate girls’ transition to womanhood without FGM. Other factors include increased education and awareness on the need to empower girls and women, as well as the involvement of the whole community. This meant including men, religious leaders and other stakeholders in the anti-FGM campaigns.
The progress is laudable, but more still needs to be done to completely eradicate this harmful and retrogressive practice from the country. Women’s rights are human rights!