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OPINION

FGM is an extreme form of violence, Period!

Demsi nzioka
Elders from Narok during an FGM case at Machakos High Court recently. [Photo/Dennis Mwikya]

Millions of women and girls across the world have been violated in the name of culture; millions are at risk, while the world hardly speaks about it.  

There is an urgent need for world leaders to deal with Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) with the seriousness that it deserves. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines FGM, as 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. UNICEF puts the number of girls and women worldwide who have undergone FGM at 200 million in 30 countries, but the real number of those subjected to the practice remains unknown.

In Kenya, the number of women and girls who have undergone FGM stands at 21%, according to Kenya Demographic Health Survey (KDHS), 2014, however in some communities FGM numbers are high: Somali (94 percent), Samburu (86 percent), Kisii (84 percent), and Maasai (78 percent).

FGM is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women. WHO clearly states that it reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes, and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women. FGM violates a person's right to health, security and physical integrity, the right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and the right to life when the procedure results in death. 

Anti- FGM Laws deter would be perpetrators of FGM from harming girls and women, hence protecting them from the harmful effects of the practice. The law further ensures that victims and survivors of FGM, access justice. Kenya is lucky to have a law - the prohibition of FGM Act, 2011.

Some counties, like Kajiado, where FGM numbers are high have adopted anti- FGM policies basing on the national laws. The national law therefore, strengthens county legislation. The impact of the national law will trickle down. What this means is, if the national law is repealed it means we can’t have a law in such counties.

Kenya is a state party to various treaties and conventions that identify FGM as gender specific discrimination related to the historical suppression and subjugation of women that is unique to women and girls. These include: the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa   (Maputo Protocol).  The medicalization is specifically prohibited in Article 5(b) of the Maputo Protocol.

Whether FGM is carried out by a medical practitioner or a traditional circumciser, the fact remains, FGM has no health benefits, just harm. 

According to Equality Now, FGM has zero health benefits and often results to lifelong health problems, increased risks during childbirth, psychological trauma, and even death. 

WHO further states that FGM can cause: Hemorrhage, scar tissue/keloid, Genital Tissue Swelling, Fever, Infections e.g. tetanus, urinary problems, Injury to Surrounding Genital Tissue, Shock, Severe Pain, Fistula, childbirth complications, newborn deaths etc. The list is endless.

FGM is proven to have extremely negative consequences that last a lifetime, it is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women, why support it?  Let’s champion for a world where women and girls are free from FGM, because one girl or women subjected to FGM, is one too many.

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