Despite being outlawed in most countries, Female Genital Mutilation, FGM, is still widely performed across Africa, the Middle East, Indonesia and Europe.
In fact, every 10 seconds, a girl is subjected to the practice. Girls are among the most vulnerable people in the world and 125 million girls and women worldwide have been subjected to FGM, most of them before the age of 15.
The traditional practice of circumcision is a rite of passage held in high esteem by most West and East African countries. The rite, they say, marks the transition to womanhood and is a requirement for all girls from diverse tribes before they marry.
In one of such countries: Kenya, more than a quarter of girls and women have undergone genital cutting, according to the United Nations data. Despite government’s ban on the life-threatening practice since 2011, the long-standing tradition remains a rite of passage for girls, particularly among poor families in rural areas.
Early in the week, Monday to be precise, the festival began in Pokot and Kerio Valley and at the latter, at least 1,200 girls were circumcised as the ‘season’ of female genital mutilation, FGM, began among ethnic communities. A teenager died and two others were admitted in hospitals after circumcision procedures went awry.
Kenyan authorities said it was estimated that 1,200 women had undergone circumcision by Monday, December 14, the highest number in nearly a decade. Some officials were also harassed by villagers in the valley when they attempted to stop the prohibited practice. The circumcisions went on in several villages in Kerio Valley, the police said.
Referring to the two girls who were brought to the hospital, Benadete Nzuve, Chief Administrative Nurse at the St Benedictine Sister’s Chesong’och Mission Hospital, told a local daily: “They were brought here unconscious but they are now in a stable condition. These are young girls aged 11 and 12 and in lower primary school.” Their parents abandoned them at the hospital entrance, fearing arrest.
Officials were already gearing up to deal with the situation as the villagers had predicted that December would be the ‘ideal season’ to perform the outlawed FGM. Elders of the community usually forecast the days to carry out the procedure by sighting a specific star. Ironically, FGMs are being carried out when the country is marking 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence.
Anti-FGM activists are furious that villagers are pressing ahead with the practice despite their relentless campaign. The anti-FGM board’s chairperson, Linah Kilimo, who has been visiting several villages as part of her campaign, said: “The visit was preceded by the information on ground that the locals had sighted a star and are currently gearing up for the cut. Our mission is to disapprove their claims because their acts have continued to snatch dignity and human rights from women.”
Last year, according to a study conducted in the United Kingdom, as many as 137,000 women are living with female genital mutilation in England and Wales. These figures were released before Britain hosted its first Girl Summit to tackle FGM and child marriage.
The report, compiled by City University London and women’s charity Equality Now, estimated that the number of women living in the UK who have experienced cutting has increased from 2,001 to 2,011.
Friday Magazine recalled that when the report was made public it revealed that the information was taken from surveys in 29 countries where female circumcision is practised, along with data from the 2011 census about women who had migrated from those countries.
Furthermore, it estimated that about 103,000 women aged between 15 and 49 and about 24,000 women aged 50 and above, who have migrated to England and Wales, are living with the consequences of FGM.
In addition, around 10,000 girls aged under-15 and 24,000 women over 50, who have migrated to England and Wales, are likely to have undergone the procedure.
According to Lydia Smith of ibtimes.co.uk, when the figures were combined for the three age groups, an estimated 137,000 women and girls were affected by FGM, born in countries where it is practised, they were permanently resident in England and Wales in 2011. Nonetheless, experts believe the estimates have limitations.
Researchers also combined the survey data with birth data from the Office for National Statistics and estimated that about 60,000 girls aged up to 14 were born in England and Wales to mothers who had undergone genital cutting.
Census information also showed that the number of women born in countries in the Horn of Africa, where FGM is almost universal and the most severe form of FGM called infibulation is carried out, increased by 34,000 from 22,000 in 2001 to 56,000 in 2011.
The number of women from countries in East and West Africa, where FGM Types I and II, clitoridectomy with or without excision of the labia minora, are very common, also increased by 10,000 over the same period.
The World Health Organisation estimated that 100 to 140 million girls and women worldwide have undergone some form of cutting.
The practice has been outlawed in Britain since 1985 and in 2012, the UN General Assembly approved a resolution calling for all member states to ban the act.
Often motivated by beliefs about what is considered proper sexual behaviour or to prepare a girl or woman for adulthood and marriage, the dangers of FGM include severe bleeding, urination problems, infections, infertility and death.
Efua Dorkenoo, Senior FGM Adviser to Equality Now, said: “As recommended by the recent Home Affairs Select Committee report on FGM, the government needs to get a handle over this extreme abuse of the most vulnerable girls in our society by implementing a robust national plan to address the issue.”
“Professionals are crying out for clear-cut guidance on referral pathways on early identification of girls potentially at risk and prevention; protocols for documenting and sharing information on FGM between health, children, social care, education and the police,” she added.
Last August, Somalia formally banned female genital mutilation which is practised on about 98 percent of girls aged between four and 11 in the East African nation. The country’s Minister of Women and Human Rights, Sahra Mohamed Ali Samatar, was quoted by Horseed Media as saying that the government wants to introduce a ban that would outlaw the practice nationwide.
The announcement followed the decision of the Somalian northern region of Putland to outlaw the practice in 2014, with Islamic scholars issuing a fatwa, a religious edict, clarifying that mutilation is not part of the Islamic doctrine.
Somalia’s new constitution, which was adopted in 2012, banned FGM, stating that the practice amounts to torture.
Friday Magazine noted that female circumcision has been banned in Nigeria with a law that also forbids men from abandoning women and children without economic support. The practice has also been outlawed in 18 other African countries including Benin Republic, Central African Republic, Egypt and South Africa.


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