7 February 2018

Kenya: Outlaw FGM, As It Has No Health Benefits

Photo: Capital FM
FGM cutters down their tools and renounce the harmful practice in West Pokot County.

This week, the United Nations is leading the world in commemorating the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation, which is marked annually on February 6.

This commemoration comes hot on the heels of a fresh debate about female genital mutilation (FGM) and the spirited efforts to eliminate it in Kenya.

This debate follows the recent filing by a medical doctor of a petition at the High Court in Machakos, seeking to have female genital mutilation decriminalised.

As expected, on learning of the news of the pro-FGM court petition, the campaigners against female genital mutilation immediately protested very loudly both online and in the streets, and with good reason.


Female genital mutilation has been classified by the United Nations as violence against women and girls.

There is evidence that the practice is injurious, harmful, and in extreme cases, leads to complications during childbirth that can result in the death of both mother and child.

It has far reaching social consequences, including leading to girls dropping out of school and child marriage, affecting the ability of girls and women to achieve their full potential in life.

Kenya, as a country, seems to be making progress in the fight against female genital mutilation. According to the 2014 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey (KDHS), the national prevalence of FGM is now 21 per cent, down from 27 per cent in 2008/9 and 32 per cent in 2003.

While this is so, there are places in the country where almost every woman and girl undergoes female genital mutilation as a rite of passage.

A briefing note published by UNFPA and Unicef in 2015 shows that female genital mutilation prevalence remains very high amongst the Somali (at 94 per cent), Samburu (86 per cent), Kisii (84 per cent), and Maasai at (78 per cent).


This data shows that much work remains to be done and that we must not relent.

Anti-female genital mutilation campaigners in Kenya, including the two key UN agencies, UNFPA and Unicef, have warned that new trends are emerging that require continuous efforts against FGM.

The new trends, including cases where girls are being put through FGM at an earlier age, and this is being conducted by medical practitioners in a bid to make it less painful and harmful, cross-border cutting is on the increase, and increased secrecy when the ceremonies take place.

One of the grave consequences of female genital mutilation is that it is usually a pre-cursor to early and child marriage, which usually forces girls out of school.


As a result, women and girls are exposed to life-long disadvantages as it affects their future prospects for paid employment or business.

We agree with the UN that FGM reflects a deep-rooted inequality between men and women, and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women and girls.

The practice also violates the women's and girls' rights to health, security and bodily integrity. It also violates their right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and their right to life when the procedure results in death.

The truth is that female genital mutilation is harmful to girls and women, to their communities and to the nation. It has no benefits, health or social and whatsoever and must remain outlawed.

The author is the Kenya country director at Deutsche Stiftung Weltbevoelkerung (DSW), an international development agency. evelyn.samba@dswkenya.org

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