Monday September 23, 2019
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No More Schoolgirls Examined For Female Genital Mutilation in Kenya

We are not going to line up all the girls and test them — you can't do that as they can be stigmatized

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FILE - A T-shirt warns against female genital mutilation. Its wearer attends an event, discouraging harmful practices such as FGM, at a girls high school in Imbirikani, Kenya, April 21, 2016. VOA

No schoolgirls in western Kenya are being forced to undergo examinations for female genital mutilation, Kenyan authorities said Tuesday, after a government official sparked outrage by proposing compulsory tests to curb the crime.

George Natembeya, commissioner for Narok County, said on Friday that girls returning to school after the Christmas break were being screened for female genital mutilation (FGM) in order to prosecute their parents and traditional cutters.

Rights groups condemned the move, saying examining the girls — aged between nine and 17 — was demeaning and contravened their right to privacy and dignity.

FGM, Kenya
Maasai girls and a man watch a video on a mobile phone prior to the start of a social event advocating against harmful practices such as female genital mutilation at the Imbirikani Girls High School in Imbirikani, Kenya. VOA

Kenya’s Anti-FGM Board said they had conducted an investigation in Narok after Natembeya’s statement and found no evidence of girls being tested.

“The Board hereby confirms that no girl has been paraded for FGM screening as per allegations that have been circulating in the last few days,” the semi-autonomous government agency said in a statement.

“The Board recognises and appreciates the role played by different stakeholders in complementing the government’s efforts in the FGM campaigns but we want to reiterate that all interventions must uphold the law.”

FGM, which usually involves the partial or total removal of the external genitalia, is prevalent across parts of Africa, Asia and the Middle East — and is seen as necessary for social acceptance and increasing a girl’s marriage prospects.

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KAMELI, KENYA – AUGUST 12: A Masaai villager displays the traditional blade used to circumcise young girls August 12, 2007 in Kameli, Kenya. VOA

FGM dangers

It is usually performed by traditional cutters, often with unsterilized blades or knives. In some cases, girls can bleed to death or die from infections. It can also cause lifelong painful conditions such as fistula and fatal childbirth complications.

Kenya criminalized FGM in 2011, but the deep-rooted practice persists. According to the United Nations, one in five Kenyan women and girls aged between 15 and 49 have undergone FGM.

Natembeya said he had announced the compulsory tests to warn communities not to practice FGM on their daughters, but that there was no intention to force all girls to undergo screening.

Rights groups said the policy was rolled back following outrage.

Also Read: The Risk of FGM Hangs Above British Schoolgirls During Holiday Break

“We are not going to line up all the girls and test them — you can’t do that as they can be stigmatized,” he told Reuters.

“What we are doing is that if we get reports from schools that a girl has undergone FGM, it becomes a police case and the girl is taken to hospital and medically examined. Then the parents or caregivers will be arrested and taken to court.” (VOA)

Next Story

Tanzania Refuses to Provide Detailed Information on Ebola Cases

Tanzania is refusing to provide detailed information on suspected Ebola cases, the World Health Organization (WHO) said, a rare public rebuke as the region struggles to contain an outbreak declared a global health emergency

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tanzania, africa, ebola, WHO
A child is vaccinated against Ebola in Beni, Democratic Republic of the Congo, July 13, 2019. VOA

Tanzania is refusing to provide detailed information on suspected Ebola cases, the World Health Organization (WHO) said, a rare public rebuke as the region struggles to contain an outbreak declared a global health emergency.

Transparency and speed are key to combating the deadly hemorrhagic fever because the disease can spread rapidly. Contacts of any potentially infected person must be quarantined and the public warned to step up precautions like hand washing.

WHO said in a statement released late Saturday that it was made aware Sept. 10 of the death of a patient in Dar es Salaam, and unofficially told the next day that the person tested positive for Ebola. The woman had died Sept. 8.

“Identified contacts of the deceased were unofficially reported to be quarantined in various sites in the country,” the statement said.

Unofficial information

WHO said it was unofficially told that Tanzania had two other possible Ebola cases. One had tested negative and there was no information on the other one.

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Dar es Salaam and Morogoro, Tanzania map. VOA

Officially, the Tanzanian government said last weekend it had no confirmed or suspected cases of Ebola. The government did not address the death of the woman directly and did not provide any further information.

Despite several requests, “clinical data, results of the investigations, possible contacts and potential laboratory tests performed … have not been communicated to WHO,” the U.N. health agency said. “The limited available official information from Tanzanian authorities represents a challenge.”

Authorities in east and central Africa have been on high alert for possible spill-overs of Ebola from the Democratic Republic of Congo where a year-long outbreak has killed more than 2,000 people.

Last week the U.S. health secretary, Alex Azar criticized Tanzania for its failure to share information on the possible outbreak. The next day he dispatched a senior U.S. health official to Tanzania.

Quick response works

Uganda, which neighbors Congo, has recorded several cases after sick patients crossed the border. A quick government response there prevented the disease from spreading.

tanzania, africa, ebola, WHO
WHO said it was unofficially told that Tanzania had two other possible Ebola cases. One had tested negative and there was no information on the other one. Pixabay

The 34-year-old woman who died in Dar es Salaam had traveled to Uganda, according to a leaked internal WHO document circulated earlier this month. She showed signs of Ebola including headache, fever, rash, bloody diarrhea Aug. 10 and died Sept. 8.

Tanzania is heavily reliant on tourism and an outbreak of Ebola would likely lead to a dip in visitor numbers.

ALSO READ: Here’s How Kids Learn Hacking Through Their Behaviour

The WHO statement is not the first time international organizations have queried information from the government of President John Magufuli, nicknamed The Bulldozer for his pugnacious ruling style.

Earlier this year both the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund contradicted the government’s economic growth figure for 2018. (VOA)