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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.

FGM, Kenya
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)

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Africa: New Dresses, Youth Action – Ending Female Circumcision

Right now the civil society in Africa is truncated, you have fragmentation

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Africa, Dresses, Youth
FILE - A man shows the logo of a T-shirt that reads "Stop the Cut" referring to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) during a social event advocating against harmful practices such as FGM at the Imbirikani Girls High School in Imbirikani, Kenya, April 21, 2016. VOA

Hundreds of delegates from African governments and campaigners gathered in Senegal this week to discuss how to end female genital mutilation (FGM), which world leaders pledged to eradicate under a set of global goals agreed in 2015.

But the ancient ritual — which typically involves the partial or total removal of the external genitalia and can cause pain, infertility and death — remains deeply entrenched in many African countries despite years of activism.

Here are some quotes from participants at the summit, which ended Tuesday, on priorities for ending FGM in Africa:

Isatou Touray, Vice President of the Gambia

Africa, Dresses, Youth
Hundreds of delegates from African governments and campaigners gathered in Senegal this week to discuss how to end female genital mutilation (FGM). Pixabay

“What is missing is political will. Some countries have enacted acts but the enforcement of those instruments for the promotion of women’s and children’s rights — that is missing.

“Number two is the weak capacity of civil society. Right now the civil society in Africa is truncated, you have fragmentation. We need to have a strong movement.”

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of U.N. Women

“One area that I think is a gap is law enforcement. This is a crime. When people do it then they are breaking the law.

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“You don’t see prosecutions enough for crimes committed against women in general … from domestic violence to rape. So we need law enforcement to step it up.”

Fatou Ndiaye Deme, Women’s Ministry, Senegal

“What is missing is good coordination. The action also needs to be at the community level. It can’t just be high-level meetings, the community has to be involved.”

Mamadou Traore, Imam, Mali

Africa, Dresses, Youth
Some countries have enacted acts but the enforcement of those instruments for the promotion of women’s and children’s rights — that is missing. Pixabay

“The obstacle is the religiosity of the practice. Some religious leaders think it is part of Islam.

“Now that they have seen that there are negative consequences, some imams have asked to medicalize the practice.

We are working with doctors to show that you can’t medicalize it, because you don’t cut this part to heal but to wound.”

Virginia Lekumoisa, survivor and activist, Kenya

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“Using the power of the youth is what I feel like other countries are not doing.

“Maybe what makes us stand out [in Kenya] is the fact that we have backed this up with youth action and power from the youth networks, working to end FGM and actually taking action.”

Rugiatu Turay, chairwoman, Forum Against Harmful Traditional Practices, Sierra Leone

“One of the most important things is funding, because you have the willingness.

“We have communities that are now willing to remove the shrine [where FGM happens], but in removing the shrine we also have to put on some kind of fanfare and celebrations. We have to make sure the women will have new dresses. So it’s all about funding.”

Ifrah Ahmen, campaigner, Somalia

“We have the international support and we have international leaders who back us up but this is our issue.

“I think now is the time to ring the bell for African leaders to speak up.” (VOA)