Female Genital Mutilation, also referred to as female circumcision, is the intentional alteration of the female genitalia. This practice is mostly done on infants or girls who are yet to hit puberty. It is a rite of passage that is deemed to get young girls ready for womanhood and marriage. This cultural practice has been prohibited and outlawed in most countries in the world.
In Kenya, FGM is a practice that is still carried out till date despite being outlawed by the Children’s Act 2001 and the Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act 2011. Those who still practice it, use culture relativism as a base for their argument. But we cannot give this practice value by its prevalence in our culture. It is a practice that proves to have adverse effects on the health of girls.
Usually, older women with no medical training or background use knives, blades, scissors or scalpels to cut and alter the female genital organs. This procedure is carried out when the girls are not under any anaesthetic conditions and who have to be constrained.
The immediate effects of FGM include: severe pain, excessive bleeding and infections on the wound such as tetanus or even blood borne such as HIV, injuries to vulva tissues as well as other organs. The long-term effects include: difficulty during pregnancy and child bearing, frequent urinary infections, chronic vaginal infections and psychological trauma.
So the big question is, how much weight should we put on this practice as against women rights? Given the adverse effects of this practice on women’s health, it is only imperative to also include women reproductive health rights on this weighing scale. In my opinion, the answer is straight forward in that the objective and palpable consequences of this practice definitely outweighs any value that this practice is given.
Sadly, the perpetrators of this practice are parents of the girls. Sometimes it’s just one parent who wants to subject the girl to this practice. In West Pokot County, there was a matter where a girl aged thirteen years old was forced by her father to undergo FGM. The mother had travelled to her home for her father’s burial and when she returned she found the girl having undergone FGM. She did not report the matter immediately, and when the authorities found out, she was found liable for not reporting and sentenced to imprisonment for three years.
Of course we sympathise with the lady, but this case goes to show how grievous this practice is under the eyes of the law. Many campaigns have been advanced against his practice too, with the community being urged to take a stand against it. Yet people practise it in hiding. It is time we decide to let go of harmful practices, to save the lives of our young girls. Let’s all join hands in the fight against FGM.