By Ann Wambui
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) has and is still being practiced in some parts of Kenya despite The Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act, 2011 stating that it is a federal act and criminalizes all forms of FGM regardless of age or status of a girl or woman. With this comes an Anti-FGM board that sets out offences and punishments.
According to Kenya Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) 2014, the most affected region in the country is North Eastern that stands at 97.5% prevalence state in FGM practices.
In the constitution, the Children Act 2001 (revised 2016); no person shall subject a child to female circumcision, early marriage or other cultural rites, customs or traditional practices that are likely to negatively affect the child’s life, health, social welfare, dignity or physical or psychological development, is argued together while tackling FGM.
The illegal act continues to be carried out by traditional circumcisers in the Nandi, Maasai, Somali community just to mention a few, to girls between the ages of 0-14 and 15-49 who are now doing it at home, hospitals or temporary clinics during school holidays. According to a research by DHS 2014, 19.7% of the ritual was done by a medical professional which led to study of 2016 suggesting that Kenya is indeed third in the world for cases of medicalized FGM.
However, despite the constitution stating the offence and addressing the penalties for the same, the Medical Practitioners and Dentists Act (revised 2012) and the Nurses Act (revised 2012), have not specifically addressed FGM, but anyone found guilty of misconduct with the body’s conduct code risk license revocation or scrapping off from the medical or nurse register.
While Kenya borders with other countries and communities, some of those who still believe in FGM move their children across the border for the cut like in the cases reported by the media in December 2011, which is usually a circumcision season and it is believed to be done in both directions, as it has also been reported that married women from Uganda are secretly taken across the Kenyan border for the cut ritual. With the same happening, Article 21 & 28(1) of the FGM Act 2011 criminalizes cross-border FGM by stating that it is an offence to any citizen or permanent resident of Kenya to ‘take another person from Kenya to another country, or arrange for another person to be brought into Kenya from another country ‘ for purposes of FGM.
In regards to punishment, Article 29 of the FGM Act 2011 clearly states that an imprisonment for a minimum of 3 years or a fine of at least Sh. 200,000 or both can be issued if found guilty. On the same, Article 19(2) states that should the FGM procedure result to death, a maximum sentence of life imprisonment is issued to the offender.
FGM is not only a problem in Kenya but also countries in the realm including Tanzania, Uganda and South Sudan which led to the East African Community Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act, to promote co-operation in the prosecution of perpetrators of FGM through merging of laws, policies and strategies to end FGM across the region.
Just like many laws face challenges in implementation, so does FGM Act which despite many arrests and arraignments in court of the offenders, difficulties in reaching remote rural areas, lack of resource and limited capacity of law enforcement agents have led to slow growth of progress in fighting FGM since its enactment in 2011. According to a report by UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Program, 75 cases brought to court only had 10 convictions in 2016. There is still lack of cooperation among officers in charge and community members in information sharing to make positive steps forward in fighting FGM.
Anti-FGM Board went far to establish a help-line dedicated to ensure all organizations and individuals fighting FGM are able to report cases and have children suspected to be taken for circumcision are saved as soon as possible. Through partnership with the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution, support for more programs and services to end FGM have been reviewed and campaigns in communities where cross-border FGM take place has been sensitized.
Since Kenya has established good relationships with most of the Non-Governmental Organizations that have set up to fight female circumcision, support from the government is still needed in ensuring that all the practicing community members are made aware and are made to understand the long-term consequences of FGM on girls and women and also the risks should they not comply with laws. Also, the government has to push for prosecutions of the guilty so that the work dedicated so far in fighting FGM do not go to waste. This prosecutions will show the communities and also those involved in facilitating FGM, just how serious interrupting with the girl-child physical and mental being can attract long-term penalties. Girls also need more education of FGM topics to understand that female cutting is a crime punishable by law.
In conclusion, the set laws need to be committed in protecting all FGM victims, including those who are pressured by the society into agreeing to FGM. This also includes protection from abusive language, the uncut women and girls by the law ensuring there is no exclusion from the society. These laws should be easily accessible to all members of the society and easy to comprehend in all local languages.
Info-graphic:// Carlos Mwendwa
Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/mtotonews
Subscribe to our YouTube Channel: http://youtube.com/mtotonewstv
Mtoto News is an online platform of news, information and resources that aims at making significant change in the lives of children by making them visible. Read mtotonews.com or follow us on twitter and Facebook @mtotonews