The fight against FGM in Narok South, Kenya
The Police have arrested 13 women from Sagamian location in Narok South for allegedly consenting to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).
The women, who are aged between 26 and 52, were found at the home of Juliana Chepngeno Bore where they has been subjected to FGM. The Narok South Deputy County Commissioner (DCC) Felix Kisalu said that he had acted on reports from the public who tipped off the police on the unlawful activities taking place at the house where the women were assembled.
Mr Kisalu said that FGM was still prevelant in the area despite the various awareness programmes that the government and other stakeholders have carried out. He linked adult FGM to retrogressive cultural beliefs and traditions while calling on religious and political leaders to join in the campaign against the vice. He also urged the public to continue reporting any illegal practices in their communities.
According to Pauline Naikumi, a gender officer working with the Narok County Government, a number of married women are getting circumcised even at an older age because they fear being ridiculed and harassed by their peers. She also explained that culturally, a woman who has not been cut cannot circumcise her son.
The law in Kenya is very clear that FGM is illegal. The Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act, 2011 criminalizes FGM and provides various penalties for those found guilty. It also establishes the Anti FGM Board, which is responsible for coordinating and leading efforts to end FGM on behalf of the Government of Kenya. The Act prohibits not only the practice of FGM, but also individuals who aid and abet. If FGM is carried out and causes death, the perpetrator will be liable to imprisonment for life. Otherwise, those involved in cutting girls and women receive harsh penalties including a minimum fine of $1800 or three years’ imprisonment.
As with the case above, despite these laws, there are concerns that FGM is increasingly being conducted underground. There are even medical practitioners colluding with parents to circumvent the law by performing FGM in private clinics or homes. The problem is largely cultural, and whole communities need to be involved.
There are several successful community led initiatives to end FGM in Kenya. Some of these include:
- Alternative Ritualistic Programs (ARPs): These programs combine intensive community sensitization about FGM to achieve a change in attitudes and behaviours. Over time, this can be successful in changing the cultural meaning of FGM, leading to an end of the practice for good.
- Encouraging father’s involvement in the upbringing of their daughters: This can help change the perceptions and attitudes towards FGM within families and communities.
- Inclusion of the topic of FGM in the education curriculum and public forum: This can help raise awareness and educate the public on the harmful effects of FGM and the legal implications of the practice.
- Strengthening community policing strategy: This involves setting up and using community policing strategies like Nyumba Kumi to help expose hidden FGM practitioners.
- Using community events like a football match as a tool to bring together boys and girls to learn about issues affecting girls, so that they can fight the FGM vice together.
These are but a few of the initiatives that are contributing in the fight to eradicate FGM in Kenya and to protect the rights of women and girls. It is encouraging that the Kenyan government has taken a serious stance against FGM and is taking several steps to protect the rights of women and girls.