OPINION: Public commitments against FGM must trickle down

By Elijah Bosco

The recent High Court ruling upholding the ban on Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) has given a much-needed boost organizations and institutions in the fore-front in the fight against the vice.

Not less impacted are the lives of women and girls spared from pain and unnecessary violation of their rights and dignity.

The ruling came just weeks after the president signed a memorandum of understanding with Samburu elders, with 22 county religious and cultural leaders from hotspot areas in attendance. They committed to ending FGM by 2022.

The news is particularly welcome in my home area among the Kuria people in Migori County. As I write this, I know of an eight-year-old girl who got cut and her life was turned upside down after developing complications.

Kuria girls are subjected to forceful circumcision, in line with pressure from their parents, fear of not getting married, being seen as outcast ‘omosagane’, and pressure from their father/ mother in-laws once they are married. This is against the right to dignity, forced to undergo any cultural practice or rites.

The Constitution of Kenya 2010, stipulates in article 27 (1) that every person is equal before the law and has the right to equal protection and equal benefit of the law. Article 28 also states that every person has inherent dignity and the right to have that dignity, should be respected and protected.

Article 44 (3) further shields a person from being compelled by another person to perform, observe, or undergo any cultural practice or rites. Conversely, Article 55 (d) protects youth from harmful cultural practices and exploitation.

Currently, a significant number of women are suffering from fistula due to FGM. Young girls are cut as people celebrate, but subject them to future anguish. Women such as the eight-year-old from my community are suffering from trauma, because they are circumcised without their consent.

FGM is not just an isolated cut, like an ear piercing. It comes with cultural baggage that violates the dignity of women in myriad ways. Girls are forced into marriages, early pregnancies and drop out of school because they are told that they have converted to adults.

In fact, FGM is the main obstacle to women and girl empowerment, adversely affecting their health, education and overall development. This is despite the tremendous strides made in the empowerment of girls through legislatives and policy formulation. We still need programmatic intervention put in place to address pressing needs of girls and the fight against FGM.

Migori County, being one of the 22 hotspot counties in the country, needs to emulate what the national government through the president is doing.

I am pleading with the governor to take lead is engaging our people of Kuria, both cultural and religious leaders to formulate a memorandum, which will be used as guideline in the fight against FGM in the county.

Also, the county assembly should legislate a policy which will help in the enforcement of ending FGM. The county government should use a people-based approach.

The Bugumbe community will be conducting their circumcision festival starting November 2021. My hope is that come November, all mechanisms should have been in place to protect our sisters from this evil.

Mr. Bosco is a Youth Advocate at NAYA Kenya, Migori County

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