On January 17, 2018, Doctor Tatu Kamau filed a case at the Machakos High Court in Kenya aiming to legalise female genital mutilation (FGM). Her argument is that condemning FGM is against the culture of several African communities and should be renewed. Further, she argues that the “Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act” (enacted in 2011) is against the Constitution by limiting women’s rights to decide over their own body, as well as discriminatory by allowing men to be circumcised but not women. The Kamau case emphasises the important need to raise awareness about the harmful practice of FGM.
Today, February 6th is the International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM, the UN Sustainable goal no.5 calls for eradication of FGM by 2030. In Agenda 2063, one of the aspirations is an Africa whose development is people-driven, relying on the potential of African people, especially its women and youth, and caring for children. This aspiration entails ending all harmful social practices, especially FGM. In Africa Alliance of YMCAs’ work on Sexual reproductive health and rights (SRHR), we address the awareness-need about FGM in communities affected by the practice. Each year we initiates an annual campaign to mark the International Day for Zero Tolerance against FGM. The campaign focuses on reaching out to all the YMCA’s branches in Africa to actively use the #IStandAgainstFGM to highlight the anti-FGM campaign. Additionally, we host an event with a local YMCA branch in Kenya, in areas where girls are affected by FGM. We partner up with local YMCA branches, Family Health Options Kenya, YWCA Kenya and Organisations for African youth to mobilise youth and plan the campaign. The event is a panel discussion which focuses on highlighting different issues about FGM. The aim for the event is to raise awareness about FGM, why the practice should end and make youth advocates for ending FGM.
Female genital mutilation is defined by WHO as “all procedures involving partial or total removal of the female external genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons”. FGM is often referred to as female circumcision implying that it is similar to male circumcision. However, the degree of cutting is much more extensive, often harming a woman’s sexual and reproductive functions. FGM can result in immediate physical problems such as intense pain and/or haemorrhage that can lead to shock during and after the procedure or urine retention from swelling/blockage of urethra. Long-term complications can for instance be vaginal problems, painful menstruation, scar tissue, need for corrective surgeries and psychological problems (Source: WHO, UNICEF).
“Female genital mutilation is a violation of human rights and must never be performed not even by a health-care provider” (WHO)
FGM is a violation of girls and women’s human rights, and condemned by several international conventions and treaties. It is also forbidden by national legislations in many countries, including Kenya. According to the World Health Organisation it reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes, and is a discrimination against women. The practice is often carried out on minors, and is a violation of children’s rights. It also violates a person’s rights to health, security and physical integrity, as well as the right to be free form torture. The reason for why the FGM practice is performed varies from region to region, changes over time and includes a combination of socio-cultural factors within families and communities. Often it is rooted in tradition and social norms to ensure that girls are marriageable and socially accepted in their community. Further it is also carried out to uphold the girls’ status and honour, as well as to ensure the honour of her entire family.
Let us all take a stand against FGM to shape the Africa We Want.