END FGM

Kisii parents take girls for FGM on pretext of ear-piercing – lobbies

The practice has moved from cultural celebrations to attitudes and mindsets governed by myths

In Summary

• Chiefs choose to ignore the practice because they regard FGM as a women's affair.

• The medics are paid between Sh500 and Sh5,000 for the cut.

A razor blade used for female genital mutilation
OUTLAWED: A razor blade used for female genital mutilation
Image: /REUTERS

Parents in Kisii are using the pretext of ear-piercing to have their young girls undergo outlawed female genital mutilation. 

Speaking during a live Facebook session on the End FGM show, Young Women Democrats director Esnahs Nyaramba said mothers take children as young as three months for circumcision. 

"When they come home, the girl will be taking antibiotics and the father of the child may think it is for the ear but it is meant for the healing process of the exercise [FGM]," she said.

 

Nyaramba said other parents are changing trends and cutting deals with medical professionals to perform the cut in April and August instead of December. The medics are paid between Sh500 and Sh5,000 for the cut. 

"Our people who are learned bring their kids home during the holidays and in the process have a deal with medical personnel who will come at night, cut the girl, then disappear. So you can imagine girls coming in April, undergoing the cut, then going back to school," she said.

Joel Onderi, programme coordinator advocacy at International Solidarity Foundation, said the practices have moved from cultural norms to attitudes and mindsets.

"For example, they have a narrative that if they do not spill a bit of blood from the girls, they will be sexually mischievous and will reflect negatively on the family, basically they are trying to lower the sexual urge for the girls," he said. 

According to the Kenya Health Demographic Survey 2014, Kenya has a prevalence rate of 21 per cent with seven out of 10 girls and eight out of 10 women are cut by a traditional circumciser.

Kisii county has a prevalence rate of 84.4 per cent, which is the third-highest in the country.  

Stella Achoki, director Centre For Community Mobilization and Empowerment, said they are working with the local administration to fight the practice.

 

"But there are some who do not support the process because FGM is done by their mothers, aunts and relatives in the villages. So even if the chief knows who has done it, they cannot arrest them because they are family members or people known to them," she said.

She added the FGM law at the county level has not been enacted, making it difficult for chiefs to prosecute those found guilty.

"People are also reluctant to provide evidence because this is a practice that is acceptable to the community, people view it as something they have grown up with and the old women who underwent the cut do not agree that there are health implications. So they do not relate to the effects of FGM," she said.

Despite the prohibition of FGM in 2011, some chiefs ignore it because they regard the practice as a women's affair, Achoki added. 

The law not only bans the practice in Kenya but also prohibits cross-border FGM and bars medical caregivers from carrying out the practice.

Besides, the law holds that consent cannot be cited as an excuse for conducting FGM.

Nyaramba called for the setting up of safe houses where the girls can go and seek shelter when rescued from the harmful act. 

Achoki said the Covid-19 situation has limited the reach to the community because not all of them can be reached via technology. 

"We are reaching them through local radio stations where we talk and share, sometimes we have Facebook live sessions for the youth or use volunteers to send text messages and get feedback to see what is happening," she said. 

Edited by A.N