One of the most horrific experiences, that an estimated 200 million girls and women undergo, globally is FGM. Covid -19 particularly puts our girls at higher risk. Why? Because families facing increased hardships due to tough economic times, are performing FGM on their daughters in order to marry them off for dowry.Hence the need to hold this conversation!
Buckle up, read, learn, share your views, and actively engage in cutting the market for FGM!
WHO defines female genital mutilation (FGM) as: partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non medical reasons. FGM has different procedures depending on the ethnic group.
Some remove the clitoral hood and glans, others remove the inner labia, and finally some remove the inner & outer labia as well as close the vulva. The last procedure, infibulation, leaves a small hole for passage of urine and menstrual fluid. Later when the girl is ready for marriage, the vagina is opened for intercourse and child birth.
In 2011, FGM was banned in Kenya with a punishment of 3 years imprisonment and a fine put in place. You would think that outlawing FGM made Kenya a free FGM zone! But I’ve got sickening news! FGM prevalence rate currently stands at 21%!
About 4 million girls and women aged 15-49 years have undergone FGM according to UNICEF! 72% of these women are from North Eastern, Rift Valley, and Nyanza regions according to a 2017 survey by National Population Council( NPC).
FGM is extremely inhuman and is internationally recognized as a violation of human rights, on account of membership to a particular religion or culture! Infants and young girls also undergo the cut making it a violation of children’s rights!
Furthermore, it violates the right to health, right to freedom from torture and cruel degrading treatment, and the right to life when FGM results in death!
It’s a demonstration of how society seeks to tame women’s sexuality and desires! FGM leaves women incapable of experiencing sexual pleasure and having healthy, intimate relationships. Women have every right to experience sexual pleasure and no one has a right to extinguish it! It is just as important as everybody else’s sexual pleasure!
So, why is FGM still thriving globally?
- FGM is considered honorable in many communities. Those who have undergone FGM are considered more feminine, marriageable, glorified, and ‘clean’. On the contrary, those who don’t comply are stigmatized and even don’t get married. A good number are aware of the consequences of FGM, yet they still undergo it due to the overwhelming social pressure
- Increased medicalization of FGM. Kisii County, which has the third highest rate of FGM in the country, has been put on the spot for medicalizing FGM. Health care providers are performing this procedure under hygienic conditions making it seem like a ‘normal’ surgical intervention.
The division in health care saddens me; because while some are at the fore front fighting FGM, others are performing it and sugarcoating it with ‘ hygienic’ conditions.
- Comparing FGM to male circumcision with many arguing that, both are protected by the constitution under the right to religion and religious practices. However, FGM cannot be compared to male circumcision as FGM risks death and complications, while male circumcision benefits the body by reducing the risk of HIV. Before screaming for your rights, think about the after math!
- Finally, many believe that FGM preserves the chastity of young girls.
As much as many justify and sugarcoat FGM with whatever reasons, it is still mutilating a woman’s body! FGM has zero benefits! In fact, it is sentencing a woman to excruciating pain, excessive bleeding, wound healing problems, shock, death, urinary problems, and menstrual issues.
Let’s boldly call FGM what it is! It is removing healthy, normal female genital tissue which, like we’ve seen, causes lots of interference in the woman’s body.
Would a normal functioning liver or pancreas be removed for non medical reasons? No! Right? So why then remove a normal functioning female genital tissue just to satisfy society and culture? Why play God and decide decide that what He saw fit in women, is no longer good and should be cut away?
At the very least FGM is not about culture, it’s about humans just being evil, selfish, and cruel!
Kudos to anti FGM campaigns such as Covaw, Orchid Project, and # End FGM Agenda by 2022 formulated by Ushanga Kenya backed by UNFPA & Government through Anti FGM Board. However, these strategies are still not enough! Complete eradication requires active involvement of different sectors of the society. Men, women, boys, girls, elderly, religious leaders, chiefs, police, medical personnel, and traditional justice systems all play a big role. It calls for collective responsibility!
There is need to empower communities so that they can confidently report FGM incidences. Police ought to be empowered to catch these criminals and have them arrested, prosecuted, and punished. All of us, in whatever small or big way, have the ability to keep our girls and women safe from the knife! Men should not be left out because they too have a voice in these strategies and conversations!
Lastly, follow @ 20s doses in Instagram and@ Njeri Kamau in Face book for previews! Feel free to share your views as well as add to what has been written.