Samburu women now want FGM halted in the community
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is one of the negative cultural initiations that have been listed as barbaric, traumatic and dangerous yet culturally accepted as an important rite of passage.
It is a form of gender based violence (GBV) that continues in Samburu County despite the harmful side effects. The whole procedure involves cut, incision or excision of any part of the female genital organs for cultural, ritual or social purposes depending on the community.
Samburu community believes the female cut determines maturity in girls after which they are forcibly married off and initiated to motherhood. Girls as young as 10 years are booked for the cut and sometimes with blessings from their own parents.
Many Samburu girls have died while undergoing the cut while others die as result of severe pain, haemorrhage, shock, acute urine retention and infections among other complications. This shatters their dreams of becoming potential leaders in various professional fields.
According to Rebecca Lolosoli, a community leader in Samburu, culture dictates that a girl cannot get married if she is not circumcised. “Even if she gets a baby out of wedlock, that baby will be killed because community believes it does not belong to them,” Lolosoli explains who went through FGM when she was still a teenage girl and cannot advice any girl to embrace it.
She adds the practice is archaic and has been overtaken with time. S
Lolosoli said apart from pain and profuse bleeding, there is a permanent scar left behind that would always tear forming a wound when one is giving birth. She notes that it is more painful than labour pain every time a woman delivers.
“I went through Female Genital Mutilation and I understand what this means. I bled and almost died but was rushed to hospital where I stayed for one month nursing the wound,” Lolosoli disclosed. She adds: “I talk from experience of what happened, how it happened and consequences that follow.”
Lolosoli regretted that men are opposed to ongoing efforts to discard Female Genital Mutilation with allegations that women are introducing a new culture into the community which is likely to stop them from marrying their daughters. However she boldly said they do not care so long as their girls are not cut.
With support from other women, Lolosoli has co-founded Uwaso Women’s Village where they provide refuge to girls who have dare to escape from Female Genital Mutilation. Here they tell girls dangers of the cut, encourage them to stay in school, work hard and pass their examinations well to achieve their goals in life.
“I would not like my girls or any other girl to go through what I went through in Female Genital Mutilation. The practice is retrogressive and girls who are educated can bear me witness,” Lolosoli says. She explains: “You can get married to any man from any community because men are also looking for uncircumcised girls and well educated,” Lolosoli said.
She affirmed that circumcised women do not enjoy sex as they should because of removal of very vital part in the sexual organ. She discouraged all girls from any community in Kenya or elsewhere not to accept female circumcision if they want to enjoy sex and raise their family in peace.
“Female genital mutilation is the main cause of domestic violence among communities who practice it, because when the woman remembers the pain caused by the scar when giving birth, she may decide to sterilise herself without husband’s consent,” Lolosoli explained.
On the other hand, the co-founder of Umoja Uwaso Women’s Village said managing the centre is not easy but they are not ready to give up. When men chase them from one village they always find alternative place elsewhere.
Lolosoli now wants Samburu men to join hands and support women in the fight against female genital mutilation that is robbing their girls of future dreams. She lamented that men encourage the practice oblivious of the adverse effects it has on the girls.
The girls from the area have called on the National Government together with Samburu County Government to help them in fighting against the brutal practice. They said promoters of female genital mutilation are known in the community and would work with any government to ensure of their arrest.
“These men are known and some are old while majority are young and their aim is to ensure that all girls are circumcised before they get married. They even pocket some money to assist in identifying those who have not been cut and those that are suitable for a Samburu Moran to marry,” they said in consensus.
The law in Kenya is very clear in that it prohibits the cut. However, in many communities this practice continues unabated. In marginalized areas like Samburu, female circumcision is done with the blessing of local leaders and administrators who also accompany their daughters for the cut.
Section 14 of the Children’s Act of 2001, clearly states that “No person shall subject a child to female circumcision, early marriage or other cultural rites, customs or traditional practices that are likely to negatively affect the child’s life, health, social welfare, dignity or physical or psychological development.”
The Prohibition of FGM Act of 2011 also disallows the ‘female cut’. It provides that anyone found practicing female circumcision and convicted shall be sent to jail for seven years or fined KSh500,000 or both. In the same, anyone who causes death in the process of carrying out female circumcision will be liable to imprisonment for a term of between three to four years or fine of between KSh100,000 and KSh500,000.
Any girl in this community who is not circumcised is looked down upon and considered a child despite her age. Although majority are aware of the dangers and risks associated with female circumcision and forced marriages, they do not consider it as a violation of rights.
In an interview with one of the girls who sought anonymity, majority of the girls are aware of the law and even risks involved but they opt to adhere to cultural practices, traditions and beliefs.
“Let us say I refused not to be circumcised, who will marry me yet I would also want to have a family in future. Unless our old men who champion it change this culture and replace it with a better one that is acceptable to all and by government, this practice is part of us,” one girl argued.
The practice sometimes takes place under the supervision of local administration officers such as chiefs, assistant chiefs and district officers. Stern action must be taken against leaders who go contrary to the laws of this land to serve as examples to others..