'GOOD' WIVES

Men force women to undergo cut or divorce them

Many married women arrested, blaming husbands. Authorities say they may have to arrest men

In Summary

• Men force their wives to undergo the outlawed cut, one reason is that only 'cut' women can host circumcision ceremonies for their sons.

• Married women who have been cut are being arrested and most say they are coerced by their husbands.  

Women who underwent the cut arraigned in Kericho law courts.
COERCED: Women who underwent the cut arraigned in Kericho law courts.
Image: FELIX KIPKEMOI

More than 30 married women arrested last week in Bomet and Kericho counties said their husbands urged or forced them to undergo FGM.

Maendeleo ya Wanawake Bomet branch chairwoman Sally Kirui said men are stumbling blocks to eradicating the cut.

Women, of course, also force their daughters to be mutilated as that's the custom. 

 

FGM, by deadening sexual sensation, is said to make a woman chaste, faithful and thus a 'good' wife. Men seek girlfriends who have not been cut but insist on mutilated wives.

“Women are being forced to undergo the cut to save their marriage. They have no option but to agree to demands from their husbands. That's why all those arrested lately are women who recently married," Kirui said.

Only women who have undergone the cut are allowed to host circumcision ceremonies for their sons.

“The men fear that when their sons grow up their wives will not be allowed to host traditional circumcision of their sons because they themselves are not circumcised. So they force them to undergo the cut," Kirui said.

Kapkimolwa sublocation assistant chief Meskorina Kilele said men should be sensitised.

Kilele, who comes from an FGM hotspot in Bomet, said six women recently arrested confessed to being coerced by their husbands.

“They confess they are undergoing the cut to save their marriage. Their husbands are putting pressure on them and threatening to divorce them,” the assistant chief said.

 

She said if the trend continues, they may be forced to take action against the men.

Those who carry out or abet FGM are breaking the law, including parents and those who allow their houses to be used.

Even those who shame and ridicule uncut girls and women are breaking the law. Adult women who undergo the cut are also violating the law, though they are victims and their circumstances are taken into account.

“We need to act on these men to win the war against FGM," Kilele said.

She led an operation on Saturday night when six women were arrested for undergoing the cut at Kapcheluch village in Bomet East. Police were joined by Nyumba Kumi members.

A circumciser was also arrested in the crackdown and her implements seized.

FGM has been surging in the South Rift.

More than 40 women have been arrested by police in Bomet and Kericho counties in two weeks.

The women aged between 26 and 34 years were rounded up at Kapcheluch village. They are being held at Longisa police station.

Police acting on a tip-off stormed a homestead in the village as FGM was being carried out at midnight. It was too late to save the women, but a facilitator-abettor was arrested.

Parents of the women fled

“The group has undergone a medical checkup. They are in stable condition and will appear in court," the chief said.

A week ago, three women were arrested in Sotik for undergoing the cut.

Another group of 22 women was arrested in Bureti subcounty in Kericho two days ago.

The 22 (married) women pleaded guilty for a charge of undergoing the cut but failed to report to a law enforcement officer contrary to the prohibition of the FGM Act were each fined Sh20,000 or serve a jail term of four months in default.

The Anti-FGM board has called upon the chiefs and assistants to be on the frontline in the fight against FGM by arresting and prosecuting culprits.

President Uhuru Kenyatta has said the practice should end by 2022, though that is impossible.

Board chairwoman Agnes Pareiyo said all local administrators must shun the FGM and make all efforts to end it. Culprits must be prosecuted, she said.

She warned that parents who take their daughters to the hospital to be cut - and medics who perform it - will be arrested and prosecuted.

 

(Edited by V. Graham)