Kenya is the latest African country to ban female genital mutilation (FGM), with the passing of a law making it illegal to practice or procure it or take somebody abroad for cutting. The law even prohibits derogatory remarks about women who have not undergone FGM. Offenders may be jailed or fined or both.
What is Female Genital Mutilation?
FGM is a traditional practice that may cause severe physical, psychological and sexual problems for the victims, who are usually circumcised at a young age.
According to the World Health Organization, female genital mutilation comprises all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.
FGM is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women. It reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes, and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women. It is nearly always carried out on minors and is a violation of the rights of children.
A Historic Day For Women
From The Guardian:
Members of the Kenyan Women Parliamentary Association said it was a historic day. Linah Kilimo, its chairperson, said the move would improve school attendance. Sophia Abdi Noor said:
I have fought for 18 years to achieve this legislation. Today is independence day for women. Men got their independence in 1963 – but today women have achieved independence from the cruel hands of society.
Unicef congratulated Kenya. Its child protection specialist in Kenya, Zeinab Ahmed said:
It is a great day for the girl child of Kenya. FGM is a serious violation of the rights of the child and of women. This bill gives an indication from government it is not just a cultural practice that can go on. The government has taken a bold step and will not tolerate any more violations.
Massive Step Towards Changing Attitudes
The passing of this law does not mean FGM will never take place again in Kenya, but making it illegal is a massive step towards changing attitudes and giving strength to those who oppose the practice.
Kenya follows a number of African governments in outlawing the practice. According to the Pan African news agency, at the time of the African Union summit in June, which proposed prohibition of FGM, Benin, Ivory Coast, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, Niger, Nigeria, Kenya, Central African Republic, Senegal, Chad, Tanzania, Togo and Uganda already had legislation against it.
FMG Still Widely Practiced In Nine Countries
However, in nine countries (including some of those where it is illegal) it is still widely practiced. In Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Guinea, Mali, Sierra Leone, Somalia and Sudan, 85% of women undergo mutilation. That’s an awful statistic for a practice that is recognized as barbaric and sexist.
Photo Credit: CIMMYT