What is FGM?
Female genital mutilation, also known as female genital cutting (FGC) includes all procedures involving the partial or complete removal of the external female genitalia, or any other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. It is generally practiced on girls between the ages of four and twelve. In some cultures it is performed as early as a few days after birth or shortly prior to marriage. It is one of the most severe forms of Gender Based Violence (GBV).
What are the major types of FGM?
Type I: Clitoridectomy, which is the partial or total removal of the clitoris or the prepuce.
Type II: Excision, which is the partial or total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora, with or without the excision of the labia majora or the prepuce.
Type III: Infibulation, which is the narrowing of the vaginal orifice with the creation of a covering seal by cutting and appositioning the labia minora and labia majora with or without excision of the clitoris.
Type IV: Pricking, piercing or incising of the clitoris and/or labia; stretching of the clitoris and/or labia; cauterization by burning of the clitoris and surrounding tissue ; scraping of tissue surrounding the vaginal orifice or cutting of the vagina; introduction of corrosive substances or herbs into the vagina to cause bleeding or for the purpose of tightening.
Where is FGM practiced?
FGM is practiced in more than 28 countries in Africa, parts of the Middle East, South East Asia, Europe, America and other countries where migrants from FGM-affected communities live.
What reason do the communities that practice FGM give for engaging in the practice?
There are a number of social and economic reasons given:
- As a rite of passage to signal that a girl has now become a woman
- To reduce the sexual desire of girls and women
- To follow a religious requirement (although there is no evidence that FGM is supported by any religion)
- To make girl and women clean
- To keep the cultural identity of a community
- To enhance men’s sexual pleasure
- To prepare a girl for marriage. Once FGM is performed a girl is seen as being ready for marriage. There is a link between FGM and child marriage.
- It is believed that FGM ensures a girl’s virginity, making sure she has not had sex with anyone before marriage. This may make men more willing to marry her and pay higher bride price for her.
- FGM provides circumcisers with a source of income. In some communities traditional leaders and chiefs are paid to give permission for girls to be cut.
What are the myths vis-a-vis the facts associated with FGM?
|An uncut woman will become promiscuous and have an uncontrollable sexual appetite.||FGM makes no difference to a woman’s sexual appetite but can stop her from enjoying sex. Sexual appetite mainly arises from hormones secreted by glands in the brain.|
|If the clitoris is not cut, it will continue to grow.||The clitoris stops growing after puberty and is still small at the final stage of growth.|
|If the clitoris is not cut, it will harm a man during intercourse.||The clitoris gives a woman sexual pleasure and does not cause any harm to her or a man.|
|If the clitoris is not cut, it will harm the baby during delivery.||The clitoris causes no harm to the foetus, the baby or the mother, whereas FGM may cause serious complications during childbirth.|
|If a woman does not undergo FGM, she will not be able to have children.||FGM has nothing to do with fertility; and FGM may actually cause infertility because of infections.|
|If a woman does not undergo FGM, her genital will smell.||FGM will not make the vagina any cleaner. In fact, Type 3 FGM (infibulation) can make the vagina less hygienic.|
Why is FGM regarded as a human rights issue?
The practice of FGM violates a number of agreed human rights laws and principles approved by the United Nations. These include:
- Equality and the right to be free from all forms of discrimination against women;
- the right to life and physical integrity;
- the right to good health and wellbeing;
- Freedom from violence, injury, abuse , torture, cruel, inhuman or undignified treatment;
- The rights of the child. Children have a special right to health care, safe environments, education and a protected childhood that allows full growth and development.
What are the complications associated with FGM?
FGM can cause both short-term and long-term physical and psychological complications.
Physical complications include:
- Extreme pain: FGM is normally performed without any anaesthesia Girls can go into shock because of extreme pain and stress.
- Severe bleeding: this is caused by damage to blood vessels. In some cases this can lead to death.
- Risk of infection: The use of unsterilized blades and traditional methods for healing the wounds may cause serious infections such as tetanus and even HIV.
- Difficulty in passing urine and menstruation: due to fear of passing urine or damage to the urinary tract and/or reproductive organs.
Psychological complications include:
- Anger at the circumciser or those who arranged for FGM to be carried out.
- Emotional distress, fear and feelings of helplessness.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder: symptoms can include flashbacks, nightmares, anxiety, and depression for a long time after FGM.
- Sexual phobia resulting in fear and difficulties in having sex.
- Feeling of not being a ‘whole’ or a ‘normal’ girl or woman may be felt by some girls /women because of FGM.
- Because the clitoris is so sensitive, a woman’s sexual; pleasure is greatly decreased by its removal. This can have negative effects in a marriage and in sexual relations. However, FGM does not take away sexual desire because sexual relations are more than physical; feelings such as love, passion, and companionship are also important for pleasure.
What is the prevalence rate of FGM nationally?
The Kenya Demographic and Health Survey 2014 indicate that 21 percent of women in Kenya have been circumcised. The practice is nearly universal in North Eastern region at 98 percent compared with Eastern region at 26 percent.
Where is the practice of FGM most prevalent?
FGM is high, in varying degrees in the following counties referred as ‘hot spots’: Mandera, Wajir, Garissa, Taita Taveta, Tharaka Nithi, Narok, Kajiado, West Pokot, Baringo, Kisii, Nyamira, Migori (Kuria), Bungoma (Mt. Elgon), Samburu, Isiolo, Marsabit, and Elgeyo Marakwet.
Who are the enforcers of the Anti-FGM law?
Police officers, members of the provincial administration, children’s officers, probation officers, gender and social development officers, and cultural officers.
What are the offences under the Prohibition of the FGM Act, 2011?
The offences are spelt out in part IV of the Act.
Section 19: Performance of FGM
This section provides, among others, that a person, including a person undergoing a course or of training while under supervision by a medical practitioner or midwife, who performs female genital mutilation on another person commits an offence.
If in the process of committing an offence under subsection (I) a person causes the death of another, that person shall, on conviction, be liable to imprisonment for life.
It is no defense to a charge under this section that the person on whom the act was involving FGM was performed consented to that act, or that the person charged believed that such consent had been given.
Section 20: Aiding and abetting FGM
A person who aides, abets, counsels or procures a person to commit an offence under section 19; or another person to perform FGM on that other person, commits an offence.
Section 21: Procuring a person to perform FGM in another country
A person commits an offence if he takes another person from Kenya to another country, or arranges for another person to be brought into Kenya from another country, with the intention of having that other person subjected to FGM.
Section 22: Use of premises to perform FGM
A person who knowingly allows any premises, for which that person is in control of, or responsible for, to be used for purposes of performing FGM, commits an offence.
Section 23: Possession of tools or equipment
Section 24: Failure to report commission of offence
A person commits an offence if the person, being aware that an offence of FGM has been, is in the process of being, or intends to be, committed, fails to report accordingly to a law enforcement officer.
Section 25: Use of derogatory or abusive language
Any person who uses derogatory or abusive language that is intended to ridicule, embarrass or otherwise harm a woman for having not undergone FGM, or a man for marrying or otherwise supporting a woman who has not undergone FGM, commits an offence and shall be liable, upon conviction, to imprisonment for a term not less than six months, or to a fine not less than fifty thousand shillings or both.
Section 29: Penalty for the offences
A person who commits an offence under this Act is liable, on conviction, to imprisonment for a term not less than three years, or to a fine of not less than two hundred thousand shillings or both.