Kenya: Government Struggles to Eliminate Female Genital Mutilation

Despite laws that criminalize female genital mutilation (FGM), FGM remains widely practiced in Kenya where many view it as a precondition for marriage. Many Kenyan girls continue to die after crude FGM procedures, yet the Kenyan authorities find it difficult to prosecute perpetrators of the crimes.  A United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) report on FGM indicates that 27 percent of Kenyan girls and women aged 15 to 49 years have undergone the procedure.
 
The practice FGM has been illegal in Kenya since 2001 under laws that ban customs harmful to children, and more recently under a 2011 law that specifically criminalizes FGM. However, relatively few FGM convictions have been achieved in Kenya. According to a 2014 report on FGM by Kenya’s inspector general of police, of 71 cases of FGM taken to court between 2011 and 2014, only 16 resulted in convictions, with 33 still pending.
 
Christine Nanjala, head of the FGM unit in Kenya’s Director of Public Prosecutions office, stated that lack of evidence is a major challenge in FGM cases. Most FGM procedures now are done secretly, and communities tend to protect FGM practitioners. In many cases parents warn girls not to provide any information about what has happened, and the girls often are so young that they do not view FGM as a crime and do not want their parents to get into trouble. Ms. Nanjala recommended that Kenyan agencies and NGOs collaborate more effectively to find out where FGM takes place and to identify the perpetrators.
 
Compiled from: Kaberia, Judie, Kenya Battles Female Genital Mutilation, Institute for War & Peace Reporting (May 7, 2014); Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting: A statistical overview and exploration of the dynamics of change, United Nations Children’s Fund (July 2013).