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FGM in Kenya

The facts

The East African country of Kenya is a home to almost 40 million people, from more than 42 different ethnic groups. The reality is 50% of Kenyan women have been victims of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) when they were aged between 10 and 15 years old. Today more than 50% of the girls aged below 15 years are at risk of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Kenya.

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is prohibited by law in Kenya since 1997 and Anti FGM Bill was passed in October 2011 but this horrible inhumane practice and most cruel way to torture girls and women is still carried on in the name of tradition. This law is almost never in use because no one displays the offence.

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is deeply-rooted in the customs and traditions of many ethnic groups. It cannot be stopped by legal regulations, but by the people themselves. It is practiced in more than three quarters of the country, although the prevalence of the practice varies widely from one ethnic group to another. It is nearly universal among Somali 97%, Kisii 96%, Kuria 96%, Maasai 93%,Taita/Taveta 62%, Kalenjin 48%, Embu 44%, Meru 42%, Kikuyu 34%, Kamba 27%, Turkana 12%, Mijikenda 6%. FGM is almost non-existent among Luhya and Luo women. The type of Mutilation varies by ethnic groups e.g. Type III is most common among Somali women, Type I among the Kisii and Type II among the Maasai, Kalenjin, Meru and Kuria.

On average, girls aged between 10 and 15 are subjected to FGM. Female infants are also mutilated, among the Taita for instance. Other ethnic groups for instance Somali, Kisii and Borana inflict FGM on girls younger than 10 years of age.

Very young girls fall victims of FGM because parents who mutilate their daughters fear that older daughters might become aware of their rights and refuse to submit to FGM.

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Kenya is predominantly performed by traditional Circumcisers. In all cases the traditional circumcisers are old illiterate women whose income is from cutting girls genitals using razor blades, pieces of broken glass, scissors, pieces of iron sheet or  knifes, without anesthesia and under extreme catastrophic hygienic conditions .This may sound to many people like a horror movie but its unfortunately the harsh reality.

Grandmothers, mothers and Aunts voluntarily mutilate the genital organs of their underage granddaughters, daughters and nieces to make them become mature women!

Many girls loose their lives due to severe bleeding. Those who survive suffer from severe physical injury and impairment. Also lifelong recurrent of reproductive and urinary tract infections, caused by obstructed flow of urine and menstrual  blood, pain during urination and menstruation, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, unspeakable pain during intercourse and childbirth and various gynecological and obstetric problems.

Some of the most Common reasons for the persistence of the 5000 years old cruel ritual, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Kenya today in the 21st Century:

  • To observe customs and traditions
  • Pressure from traditional people. There are some parents who are against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) but they get pressure from traditional people who in this case are either family members i.e. in-laws, grandmothers, grandfathers, aunts, uncles, or members of the community.
  • The urge to dominate women and to curb women's sexual desire!
  • For marriage. In the communities where Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is practiced, Men marry only girls/women who have gone through the cut. Therefore girls get fooled and they believe that without being cut they would never get a husband to marry.
  • For bride price. Parents subject their underage daughters to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) so as to marry them off for a good pride price!
  • To mark the passage of a girl from childhood to womanhood and into marriage! Girls who have undergone Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) feel grown up and they have no qualms having sexual relationship with adult men who as well view them as mature women ready for sexual relationship. This contributes to a high rate of teenage pregnancy and school drop outs.
  • To prepare a teenage girl for marriage when the girl is psychologically not ready! This is most common among the Pokot community where many teenage girls go through Female Genital Mutilation and are finally forced into marriage with older men.
  • The belief that the clitoris will grow until it sweeps the ground!
  • Fear of being rejected by own family and being highly marginalized in their community. A girl who in rare cases refuses to go through Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) suffers family/ social isolation and rejection.
  • Ignorance! Many choose not to see the consequences of FGM.