Believe it or not, a female doctor in Kenya, who has practiced medicine for over 26 years, filed a petition supporting FGM the very act that has adverse health effects on girls and women. Dr. Tatu is seeking the legalization of FGM for women above 18 years because they are adults hence can choose what happens to their bodies. The doctor believes that, just us some women decide to drink or smoke with full knowledge of the health and social consequences of the decisions, so should they have the freedom to choose to undergo FGM-or not.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting is the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia. The ritual is done to girls between 5 and 15 years. However, girls and women above this age group can also be subjected to FGM. Communities that practise FGM include the Maasai (78%), Kuria (95%), Somali (94%), Gusii (85%). There have been cases of women hailing from communities that do not practice FGM/C, married in communities that practice FGM being forced to undergo the harmful ritual, lest they are divorced. The practice leads to severe bleeding, risk of haemorrhage, obstructed labor, and uterine infections. Further, there is research evidence showing a connection between a high prevalence of HIV and Fistula in areas where FGM is practiced.
“The case is already damaging. I have seen many discussions on social media on the same. Unfortunately, some people are nearly being swayed by the supporting argument because she is a doctor. However, I believe that there is no sane woman out here in her right mind who knows the consequences of FGM and would still willingly undergo the cut without coercion. I hope the testimonies of the many survivors of FGM and anti-FGM will help in showing the sad realities of FGM”, Tony Mwebia, an anti-FGM activist and founder of MenEndFGM.
Clearly, Tatu may not understand the underlying factors in the emergence and spread of FGM. Such knowledge would inform her that it is not a matter of choice-rather it entails freedom and independence, which the African girl does not know. FGM is a cultural belief and practice. Communities like that practice it believe that it makes a girl complete. Any girl who has not gone through the rite is considered incomplete hence attracts ridicule from other community members.
Without the Law, no Girl or Woman Will be Empowered Enough to Resist FGM
Kenya is among the countries that have outlawed FGM through the enactment of the Anti-FGM Act of 2011. Anyone found culpable of procuring, arranging and assisting in FGM is subject to punishment of a jail-term and fine. Admittedly, the law has been effective in creating awareness of the psychological, physical, and mental effects of FGM. However, it seems that it has led to the spread of medicalized FGM. It has emerged that rogue healthcare personnel are conducting FGM underground. Also, there is a new trend of girls being taken to the cut earlier before reaching five years.
FGM/C is done because of pressure from the community. The obligation to the community takes precedence over the needs and desires of an individual. Therefore, even if girls and women are given the freedom to choose if they wish to undergo FGM, a rite of passage, it is highly unlikely that the latter will choose to deal with the repercussions of denouncing the culture.
Notably, culture provides a strong framework for the well-being of the members of the society. It has been said, again and again, culture cannot be used as a basis to harm girls and women. Moreover, culture changes and adapts to the needs of the members of the society.
“A woman cannot resist undergoing FGM in a community that is still holding on the practice as a valuable tradition. In such a case, the woman needs protection from the law. Think about a woman married in a community that practices FGM. The mid-wives and mothers-in-law are after them, and sometimes it is done to them at that moment when they are so hopeless during birth. The law strengthens the ability of girls and women to protect themselves”, Leah Wandera, anti-FGM activist and the acting CEO of Hope Foundation for African Women.
WHO estimates that at least 200 million girls have undergone FGM. Additionally, nearly 2 million girls undergo the procedure each year. Research shows that the prevalence of FGM is significantly reducing among communities like the Maasai and Meru since the criminalization of FGM through the anti-FGM law in 2011. The law is the only thing Kenyan girls and women have been holding on to keep them safe from FGM. Do not touch the anti-FGM law.