Men urged to join the fight against FGM

According to the Kenya Demographic and Health Survey (2014-2015), 21 per cent of women and girls aged 15-49 have undergone some form of FGM and three out of 10 girls in Kenya today face the risk of undergoing the cut.

The national prevalence of prevalence of FGM currently stands at 21 per cent with communities such as the Somali, Samburu, Kisii and Masai still leading in the practice.

In Kajiado County, the prevalence rate of FGM is at 78 per cent almost four times the national prevalence. Efforts by anti-FGM stakeholders to fight the vice has often been met with resistance as the practice is deeply rooted in culture.

AMREF Health Africa under the Power to Youth project, has renewed the campaign against FGM in Kajiado County by involving men and morans.

Grace Naserian, Power to Youth Project Coordinator, said involvement of men in the fight against FGM was strategic as men are the decision makers in the homes.

Speaking in Olgos village, Kajiado Central while disseminating the anti-FGM policy to a section of men groups, the Coordinator said men who are the custodians of customs, have a lot of influence in the community and if they are sensitized on why FGM is harmful to their women then they have the power to stop it.

Naserian said men have supported FGM as it is part of their culture but do not know what exactly happens during the process or the damage it does to the girls as it is purely a women affair.

“Although it is women who carry out the mutilation, men are the decision makers in every household. If the man makes a stand and says that their daughters will not be circumcised, then their word is law and no one will dare cross it,” she said.

Naserian added that morans were also being sensitized on the harmful effects of FGM to the girls and being encouraged to marry uncircumcised girls.

“Morans have often been seen as a stumbling block in the fight against FGM as they refuse to marry uncircumcised girls. They have also been known to torment and harass uncircumcised girls, further fueling the vice. This has forced girls to undergo the cut as they fear not getting married,” Naserian added.

She said creating awareness among the morans would help in fighting the vice as the girls will no longer have to undergo circumcision for fear of rejection.

John Kutata, a resident of Olgos who attended the anti-FGM dissemination policy meeting, said he had been enlightened on the harmful effects of FGM on the girls and he would not allow any of his girls to undergo the cut.

Kutata said he has always supported FGM as it was part of their culture but he did not know the physical and psychological damages it did to the girls. He called for more sensitization among the residents, especially among the men adding that they are not aware of its harmful effects.

“We have been practicing and supporting FGM for years as it is part of our culture but we did not know the damage it does to the women and girls. After being taught here today, I have taken a stand that no daughter of mine will undergo circumcision and I will be enlightening other men to also take a stand,” said Kutata.

Samuel Parashina reiterated Kutata’s sentiments adding that girls are normally married off after undergoing circumcision, cutting short their education. He called on the men to take an active role in campaigning against the vice to ensure that the girls stay in school and have a chance at bettering their future.

The founder of Community against Female Genital Mutilation (CAFGEM) Lester Linti emphasized that the cultivation of men as ambassadors against FGM would impact positively in the fight against the vice as the men are the decision makers in the community.

“We are creating awareness among men on the harmful effects of FGM and roping them in as change agents as men have the power to influence change in the community as they are the decision makers,” said Linti.

Linti called for increased community advocacy and dialogue on FGM and promotion of alternative rites of passage.

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is a criminal offence under the prohibition of the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2011, the Children’s Act and the Penal Code.

Any person who conducts FGM or pays someone else to conduct the practice or provides his premises for it to be carried out, is guilty of an offence. Failure to report the act and possession of instruments used in FGM is also a crime.

Anyone convicted of these offenses can go to prison for a period of between three and seven years, and be fined up to Sh500, 000. Regarded as a rite of passage and cultural practice, FGM comes with negative consequences on the health of the women and girls.

Some of the health risks include severe pain, excessive bleeding, genital tissue swelling, human immunodeficiency virus, urination problems, impaired wound healing, chronic genital infections and even death.

Despite the practice being outlawed, it still goes on among some communities in Kenya albeit in secrecy to evade the law.



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