Some 500 girls were circumcised in Sebei region over the Christmas period! This is an alarming rise in Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) because the number of mutilated girls stood at 90 in the previous circumcision season.
The ritual involves the removal of the clitoris and the entire labia. Why is this done? It is only through the FGM that a woman becomes a â€˜fullâ€™ woman and commands respect in society. The dangers of FGM are real and cannot be trashed away as propaganda by people who do not understand Sabiny culture. The affected women experience complications during child birth, suffer chronic infections and excessive bleeding.
The sensitisation programme undertaken by the Reproductive, Educative and Community Health (REACH) project, had reduced FGM in Kapchorwa. Unfortunately, REACH seems to have gone back on its promise to set up a girlsâ€™ school in the district, sponsor the education of girls and give the â€˜surgeonsâ€™ heifers. This strongly suggests that it is not because of culture alone that FGM has persisted. Underlying the practice of FGM is poverty. Circumcised girls find social security in marriage and their parents get richer through bride price.
The traditional â€˜surgeonsâ€™ earn a living from it. The Ministry of Education, civil society and womenâ€™s organistions must revisit the matter and plan afresh and follow up the approach REACH had taken. Empowered women are likely to acknowledge the disadvantages of FGM.
There is also need to understudy Kenya and examine how they have gone about it among the Meru, Nandi and Kikuyu who also practise FGM. Because the victims are themselves advocates of the practice, legislating against it might complicate it further. The situation in Kenya in the 1920s and 30s demonstrates this. Female circumcision got entangled in Kikuyu nationalist politics.
The missionariesâ€™ attack on the custom was understood as an attack on Kikuyu culture and identity. A more friendly sensitisation campaign and empowering the stakeholders might effectively fight the practice.
FGM can be defeated by joint effort