The Journal of History     Winter 2003     TABLE OF CONTENTS
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Female Genital Mutilation

Efforts at stopping Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Kenya may not succeed without a law against the practice, pressure groups have argued.

Despite the hue and cry and spirited campaign against the practice,  FGM is still observed by nearly 50 percent of the country's administrative districts.

The Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA), Kenyan chapter and the  African Women Media Network (FEMNET), say only legislation will help curb the practice by serving as a deterrent to parents who force young girls into circumcision against their will.

"Despite Kenya being a signatory to various International Human Rights Instruments that call for the enactment of legislation against harmful traditional practices, there is no legislation banning FGM in  the country," FIDA said in its latest report.

Kenya is a signatory to the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (ARC).

In its annual report on the legal status of Kenyan women, FIDA  estimates that female circumcision is practised in more than 50  percent of the country's administrative districts. The increased  involvement of medical professionals in FGM, also poses a great challenge to efforts at eradicating the practice, the report further states.

FIDA criticises the Health Ministry's Plan of Action on FGM, launched in 1999, for not recommending a ban on the practice.

"Efforts will always be largely unsuccessful because in Kenya, we operate on a doctrine that ...there is no punishment without law," the FIDA report added. It, however, urged women, families and communities to campaign against the practice.

But the call for legislation against FGM has been dismissed as ineffective by the National Focal Point on Female Genital Mutilation, a lobby group.

The group's Co-ordinator, Agnes McAnthony said criminalising the rite would undermine efforts to eradicate it.

PanAfrican News Agency
June 6, 2001
Tervil Okoko
Nairobi / KENYA


FGM Practitioners Criticised

Mrs. Gladys Asmah, Ghana Minister responsible for Women's Affairs, has criticised traditionalists who still practice Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).

She was launching a novel titled "Mutilated" written by Mr. Annor Nimako. The novel addresses the problems of women who undergo FGM and  suggests ways of eradicating the practice in the country and Africa  as a whole.

She said that the act is illegal and infringes on the rights of women who at tender age have no idea of the repercussions of undergoing  such rites.

Mrs. Asmah said that the government abolished FGM because of the  future health problems it poses to those who undergo such operations.

The Minister said anyone who mutilates a girl-child does so illegally and when caught would face the law.

She described the practice as inhumane and obnoxious, and therefore, saw no reason why people should indulge in it.

She said not only does it cause excessive pain and trauma, but also it can also lead to death through bleeding. Besides the victim risks contracting HIV/AIDS through the use of infected razor blades and knifes.

She said that although the government has been intensifying its education campaign to stop FGM practice in the country, some uninformed people who still hold on to this tradition believe that it  makes girls hygienic.

"But this has not proved any positive impact on them as they claim," she added.

Over 500,000 Ghanaian women in the Northern and Upper Regions have undergone circumcision.

Accra Mail
July 20, 2001
Accra / GHANA

A three-day workshop organised by anti-female genital mutilation crusaders in Meru South district in Kenya to sensitize the  population on the demerits of the practice ended Friday on a sweet note when local female circumcisers signed a declaration to eradicate the evil from the district.

The declaration was signed by the 10 female circumcisers attending the workshop at an elaborate ceremony presided over by a senior chief who represented the administration.

"We, the chiefs and the female circumcisers from Meru South district, declare that we have learnt and understood the harmful effects of female genital mutilation," the declaration said in part.

"We hereby declare that we will do all what is possible to discourage the practice within our areas of jurisdiction," the document added.

The signing ceremony at Chuka Town, 140 km north of Nairobi, marked the climax of the workshop organised by a women's welfare lobby group  that has for the last six years been crusading against FMG.

Known as the "Circumcision Using Words," the group has been  advocating an alternative rite of passage for girls, whereby candidates for initiation to womanhood are taken for counselling seminars on their sexuality, family life, HIV/AIDS and lifestyles.

Since its inception, the group has registered some success amid  opposition from die hard traditionalists of both sexes who term its policies as "childish, uncalled for and in bad taste."

Aniceta Kiriga, the co-ordinator of the anti-FMG lobby was a happy  woman Friday, saying the signing of the declaration was a step forward in her long campaign against FMG.

She told PANA that FMG was an "unnecessary evil" that had contributed to the underdevelopment of women folk in the area.

"FMG has particularly dealt a major blow to the education of our  young girls, as most tend to drop out of school at the tender age of 12 soon after undergoing the ritual," she complained.

She explained that despite opposition from traditionalists, her organisation was committed to ensuring that girls continued with  their education.

"We will continue using this alternative rite of passage to convince those doubting that girls can take up good advice without necessarily facing the knife," she declared.

The medical officer for Meru, Dr. David Kaburu, had earlier told the workshop that FGM had been identified as the main cause of complicated births in local health institutions.

The medical fraternity in the area was also concerned that the practice had accelerated the spread of HIV/AIDS, as the circumcisers, who owned up to attending to over 100 girls in a season, used the same knife, Kaburu said.

"An entire generation of women may be wiped out by the AIDS scourge if this practice continues. Since FMG does not contribute to any useful purpose, why not do away with it altogether?" the medic posed.

Kaburu said that following the new development, there were plans to help the female circumcisers start alternative income generating activities to compensate them for loss of income.

PanAfrican News Agency
July 20, 2001
Nairobi / KENYA


The Journal of History - Winter 2003 Copyright © 2003 by News Source, Inc.