SECRET FGM IN NAROK

Girls circumcised in hospital while giving birth, Maasai elder says

Nooseli call on the government to implement harsher penalties at the community level to stop the vice

In Summary

• Girls who give birth are cut because their fathers opt to marry them off instead of taking them back to school.

• Despite elders having sufficient evidence to put away perpetrators, authorities often work against them and hide evidence. 

Narok council of elders chairman John Keroro and Francis Nooseli with UNFPA Kenya representative Dr Ademola Olajide during the religious leaders and elders engagement on ending FGM and GBV in Nairobi on November 18, 2020
CONSULTATION: Narok council of elders chairman John Keroro and Francis Nooseli with UNFPA Kenya representative Dr Ademola Olajide during the religious leaders and elders engagement on ending FGM and GBV in Nairobi on November 18, 2020
Image: DOUGLAS OKIDDY

At least 78 girls have become pregnant in Loita village, Narok county, since March when Covid-19 was first reported.

This is according to Francis Nooseli, a member of the Narok county council of elders, who added that most of them are cut without their knowledge or consent as they give birth. 

"When they go to hospital to give birth, they are cut without knowing and that brings a lot of issues because we only find out the girls have been cut after. When they also find out they have been cut, it causes a lot of mental problems for them," he said. 

Nooseli spoke during a stakeholders forum between elders and religious leaders convened by the United Nations Population Fund in Nairobi on Wednesday. 

"As the Maasai people, we have a culture that is causing problems. When you go to the elders and ask them to stop the vice (female genital mutilation), they ask you why because they do not see any problem," he said. 

The girls who give birth are cut because their fathers opt to marry them off instead of taking them back to school. Nooseli stated that girls in his culture cannot be married without first being cut. 

To counter this, the council of elders came up with laws that applied to their community. 

"We said before children go to school, they undergo a medical check up to see if they have undergone the cut and parents do not want that because they know they will be arrested," he said. 

He asked the government to implement harsher penalties at the community level to stop the vice. In 2011, Kenya passed a law that prohibits circumcising women and girls. 

"The 2011 law we are following is still on paper. I propose that it needs to be implemented to be painful to the perpetrators of the vice," he said.

Nooseli added that despite the elders having sufficient evidence to put away perpetrators, authorities often work against them to hide it. 

"However, you realise even when perpetrators are arrested, the authorities, especially chiefs, work to hide the evidence and the cases are thrown away," he said. 

Dr Ademola Olajide, UNFPA Kenya representative, said male involvement is key to ending FGM. 

"Our societies being mainly patriarchal in nature, it is paramount that we journey with the men in eradicating FGM in the community," he said. 

"Poverty, negative perceptions, social norms, customary or religious laws on FGM and marriage continue to be key factors that promote these harmful practices and place women and girls at risk."

The Anti-FGM Board chair Agnes Pareyio said they have been engaging various stakeholders in the identified hotspot counties to enforce the 2011 anti-FGM law. 

"Over the last year, we have covered 20 hotspot counties out of 22. We are yet to cover Bungoma and Mandera," she said.

Edited by Henry Makori