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February 19, 2019

Pro-FGM medic swamped with expert views from opponents

Maasai women camp outside the High Court in Machakos yesterday /ANDREW MBUVA
Maasai women camp outside the High Court in Machakos yesterday /ANDREW MBUVA

A petitioner seeking to decriminalise female genital mutilation yesterday complained about too many expert witnesses, virtually all opposing her.

Dr Tatu Kamau told the High Court in Machakos she has been receiving emailed affidavits of expert witnesses almost daily since she filed the case. It has been difficult for her to reply.

“I don’t know when this will stop, I’m beginning to get tired,” she said. Judge David Kimei told her to brace for the deluge because the case is of great public interest.

“It’s OK for an interested party to file their affidavits since we are still in the pretrial process. This is a matter of public interest and we cannot lock out anyone who is interested,” he said.

Kamau says the ban is unconstitutional and adult women should be allowed to do what they want with their bodies — just as women are allowed to smoke and drink, which are arguably harmful.

Respondents’ lawyers and the nine interested parties demanded to know whether arap-Koech who is the 10th interested party and supports Dr Tatu will seek legal representation and if not how he respond to their affidavits.

Koech said he will not seek legal representation. He said he is up to the task to engage the lawyers in person. He provided his email address, prompting court attendants to burst into laughter.

This was after the judge had warned the court is not a place for public opinion but strict procedures and rules. “I want Koech to be guided well because whatever he is submitting now is going into the record,” Kimei said.

protests outside court

He gave the parties 21 days to file all their replying affidavits and written submissions on whether the case should be heard by a three-judge bench. The matter will be mentioned on June 11.

The case has drawn enormous public interest. Yesterday, Maasai women and men camped outside the court, carrying anti-FGM placards.

Lawyer Sofia Rajab-Leteipan, with Equality Now, an interested party, told journalists outside the court they are determined to win. She said FGM is a violation of human rights and should not be allowed anywhere in any way.

Interested parties against the petition include Amref Health Africa, the Federation of Women Lawyers, the Centre for Rights Education and Awareness Africa, the Katiba Institute and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions. Others are the Samburu Girls Foundation, Msichana Empowerment and the Kenya Women Parliamentary Association.

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