New campaigns target ending GBV and FGM

A young girl being circumcised. Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) remains a major cause for deep-rooted inequalities in the society. Photo: Dianarose Odhiambo
A young girl being circumcised. Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) remains a major cause for deep-rooted inequalities in the society. Photo: Dianarose Odhiambo

While the circumcision of boys in most communities is marked with pomp and colour, the case is different for girls as female genital mutilation (FGM) has been outlawed.

The cut is normally performed on girls who have just reached puberty ranging from the age of 9 to 16. Unfortunately compared to their male brothers, girls are not allowed to go back to school once the cut has been performed since they are then considered women. Usually after the cut, girls are betrothed to men who sometimes are old enough to be their grandfathers. In some cases, they end up being third or seventh wives, which is traditionally acceptable.

With vibrant campaigns to end FGM in places where the cut is a rite of passage, communities have now turned to practicing this retrogressive culture in secrecy.

The Coalition Against Trafficking in Women is one of the organisations that is running awareness campaigns dubbed End FGM and Stop GBV.

Campaign to raise awareness

According to Eva Komba, East Africa regional coordinator for the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, the two campaigns seek to curb cases of violation of girls’ rights which is done through forcing them to undergo the cut.

The Coalition Against Trafficking in Women has also increased awareness of gender based violence among citizens by enlightening survivors and reporting perpetrators of violence.

The organization which is a member of Africa UNiTE has also been participating in processes that have been pushing for the amendment of GBV laws. Already, the sexual Offences (amendment) bill has been brought to the floor of the National Assembly to seal certain loopholes.

The Africa UNiTE is an initiative of the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon. It is a global campaign and a continent wide partnership to end violence against women and girls.

Africa UNiTE Kenya Chapter is a collective platform to wide range of stakeholders that aims to harmonize and synergise efforts towards raising public awareness, stimulating behaviours and increasing political will as well as resources for the prevention and response to all forms of violence against women and girls in the continent.

Amendment

Eva Komba, East Africa regional coordinator for the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women. The organization has been running awareness campaigns dubbed End FGM and Stop GBV. Photo :Dianarose

Eva Komba, East Africa regional coordinator for the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women. The organization has been running awareness campaigns dubbed End FGM and Stop GBV. Photo :Dianarose

“We have also been engaging in global campaigns to end FGM, which is a result of online discussions. In addition, there’s the development of new legislations and amendment of existing legislation, like the Sexual Offences Act that is currently being amended.”

The Sexual Offences (Amendment) Bill 2016 seeks to devolve the functions of handling the sexual violations to the counties. It concerns counties and county governments.

The Bill has also introduced stringent measures that will make sure that perpetrators are not let off the hook through bargaining please as has been the case in the past.

According to Komba, the Sexual Offences Act in its current form does not provide for effective remedies for minors and has been an impediment in the fight against early and forced child marriages.

Just like any other organization fighting an archaic retrogressive culture, the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women has encountered various challenges.

Culture

Patriarchal societies have normalized violence and Komba cites early marriages as one case in point which has been upheld by the same communities.

“Patriarchy and male dominance remains a great challenge towards ending GBV. Men are known to use violence to control women and changing this will definitely take some time.”

Coalition Against Trafficking in Women has been supporting the establishment of rescue centres to provide safety nets for girls targeted for FGM.

“Most girls in rescue centres are the brave ones who have been sensitized on their rights and can stand up for themselves,” observes Komba. “This is a clear indication that the campaign against early marriages and female genital mutilation is taking root and being planted in the hearts of the relevant people.”

However, there are emerging issues in the fight against gender-based violence, as witnessed by Coalition Against Trafficking in Women.

Komba says that there are increased cases of medicalization in FGM. “This means medical practitioners are also getting involved in the practice. Just the way traditional circumcision has been fought against and boys are taken to hospital for the cut, girls are also now being taken to the “slaughter house” since it is believed to be lawful and healthy.”

In addition, Komba says, the practice has gone underground and FGM is practiced in secrecy due to increased arrests as a result of the vice being outlawed.