Kenya: Female Genital Mutilation Persists in Rural Areas
Wednesday, November 10, 2010 10:50 AM

In Kenya's Tana River County, young girls continue to be subjected to female genital mutilation (FGM) despite laws forbidding the practice. FGM is the practice of partially or totally removing external female genitalia, or otherwise injuring female genital organs for non-medical purposes. Girls are subjected to FGM in an effort to control the female's sexuality due to the belief that removing parts of the female genitalia make women less "sensitive" and thus less prone to sexual indulgences before and/or during marriage. It is believed that girls should be mutilated as early as possible, resulting in increasing numbers of nursery school aged children being subjected to the practice in Kenya.

Kenyan families in this region have taken to performing the procedure during school holidays in order to prevent teachers from detecting abnormalities in the girls' health. Performing FGM in April, August, and December, allows the girls time to heal before resuming their studies, with their teachers and other authorities none the wiser. Recently, Tana police discovered a group of girls were to undergo the procedure at an elderly woman's home. Though they arrived too late to prevent the mutilation, the women were arrested and charged with performing FGM, and the girls, some of them in nursery school, were taken to a hospital for observation.

In rural areas like Tana, girls and women who have not been subjected to FGM are considered to be unmarriageable children. Because of this, family members take it upon themselves to ensure the girl will be accepted into society and force the young girls to undergo female gential mutilation. Grandmothers in particular are accorded higher social status for having presided over a granddaughter's procedure, according to an area resident. Girls that have undergone FGM taunt those that have not, and men are ridiculed for marrying women who have not been subjected to FGM. Thus, while FGM has been outlawed in Kenya, it still persists in rural regions like the Tana River County.

Activists like Sadia Hussein, 21, draw from their own FGM trauma to eradicate the practice, identifying it as a human rights abuse. Hussein was subjected to FGM at age seven. She is currently campaigning against FGM in all three of Tana's districts.

Compiled from: Agony for Girls as Culture of Silence Fuels Outdated 'Cut',, (2 November 2010).