Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) refers to removal or cutting the female genitalia, with the sole aim of making women docile until marriage. The practice of FGM however has no medical value or religious significance. The United Nation Population Fund, UNFPA defines FGM as all procedures involving partial of total removal of the external female genitalia or other injuries to the female genital organs for cultural or other non- medical reasons. Approximately 100 million to 140 million girls and women globally face the risk of FGM. This practice is rampant and more predominant in Sub- Sahara Africa and the Middle East. In Kenya today, 2 out 10 girls face the risk of undergoing the cut. FGM in Kenya is illegal but still very high in some communities which record FGM prevalence rate at almost 90%. Kenya is a progressive country with a strict legislation that prohibits FGM. There is need for increased advocacy efforts to ensure full implementation of the anti-FGM law in Kenya.
The World Health Organization has identified four types of FGM: Type I, called clitoridectomy- is the partial or total removal of the clitoris or the prepuce. Type II, called excision- partial or total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora, the amount of tissue removed varying from community to community. Type III is called infibulation- narrowing of the vaginal orifice with a covering seal. The seal is formed by cutting and re- positioning the labia minora and/ or the labia majora. Type IV is harmful than all above procedures because it involves- pricking, piercing, incising, scraping or cauterization of the female genitals. The centre for the study of adolescence is working in Kajiado County, under the Yes I Do Alliance (YIDA Alliance) to help the community abandon this practice.
CSA, works in schools in Kajiado County where pupils are given information and knowledge about their sexual reproductive health and rights. By doing this, CSA works to achieve the targets of SDG 5: ending all forms of violence against women and girls including Female Genital Mutilation. Giving girls access to education and an opportunity to study empowers them to stand up against FGM. Studies have shown that girls who receive information about the effects of FGM are not likely to subject their daughters to this practice. By working in Kajiado with other stake holders, CSA hopes that the community will be sensitized to end FGM and create an enabling environment for girls.
So, what are some of the arguments for the practice of FGM in these societies? Communities argue that it is a rite of passage from girl to womanhood. Many believe it is rooted in religious obligations and ethnic or cultural identities. Some proponents also argue that it will reduce the rate of HIV and AIDS in nations that have been greatly ravaged by these diseases. By having this procedure done, it reduces sexual desires; therefore, women will have fewer sexual partners and less likelihood to contract these diseases. Kemunto, a traditional circumciser said, “When you are cut as a woman, you do not become promiscuous and that means you cannot get infected by HIV”. The supporters also claim that like male circumcision, FGM maintains cleanliness. Portions of the female genitalia that secrete fluids are removed or stitched or almost closed. It is therefore important to demystify these myths and misconceptions around FGM.
There are serious health implications and risks to FGM such as: death during the procedure from haemorrhaging or unsterilized instruments, painful sexual experiences, menstrual problems, urination problems, risks during pregnancy for the mother and during labour for the mother and baby. There is also psychological trauma associated with this practice such as stress of the procedure may trigger behavioural disturbances in children, linked to loss of trust confidence in care givers. Women may suffer fillings of anxiety and depression and sexual dissatisfaction accompanied with pain may cause marital conflicts and divorce. In our program in Kajiado, we empower adolescent girls with knowledge and information that is factual about their sexual reproductive health and rights.
-Article by Jimmy Opot,
CSA Youth Advocate.