Thousands of girls are being subjected to FGM and paraded down streets after mass cutting ceremonies in Kenya.
More than 100 girls in Migori County have been cut each day since the last week of September, according to a local NGO.
Female genital mutilation (FGM) is the ritual cutting or removal of some or all of the exterior female genitalia for non-medical reasons.
Despite efforts by local NGOs and the international community to eradicate the practice, it continues in some communities.
Video footage reportedly from Kuria West – now part of Migori County – showed a number of young girls in tinsel-covered blankets, some with balloons attached, being paraded down a street by a group of men to the accompaniment of music.
The men can be seen wielding machetes and other weapons in an apparent deterrent to police.
More than 100 girls (seen above in blankets and tinsel) in Migori County have been cut each day since the last week of September, according to a local NGO. They were then paraded through the streets
Natalie Robi Tingo, Founder of Msichana Empowerment Kuria, an NGO that works to end FGM, said it was uncertain how long the cuttings would go on for.
‘The cut began the last week of September. We thought it would have finished by Saturday so that has not been the case.
‘Things have been really bad and we hope that this week will be the final week.
‘The cut has been very public in that we see girls walking the road being paraded.’
Robi Tingo added that her organisation was due to meet with the Kenyan Ministry of Gender on Monday to address the situation.
A number of men in the parade carried balloons while other balloons were attached to some of the girls
On October 14, Kenya’s Daily Nation newspaper reported that at least 80 girls from Kuria West had not reported back to school after running away from home over fears of being subjected to FGM.
The girls, aged between nine and 13, reportedly sought refuge at Taranganya Girls’ Secondary School as the Kuria community’s ‘circumcision season’ set in despite efforts by the Kenyan government to crack down on those promoting the practice.
A number of the girls expressed worries that they would be disowned for refusing to undergo the agonising ordeal and that they would not be able to continue their schooling without the support of their families.
However, a member of the NGO protecting the girls said their parents had promised to take their daughters back without subjecting them to FGM and would be monitored to ensure they complied with the agreement.
Many girls who are subjected to FGM (like the two above seen wearing tinsel during a parade) face health issues and are taken out of school and forced into early marriage
Girls who are subjected to FGM face short-term health issues including severe pain, shock, excessive bleeding, infections and difficulty in passing urine.
The brutal ritual can also have serious long-term consequences for the girl’s sexual, reproductive and mental health.
Aside from the health concerns, FGM also impacts the opportunities available to girls who are subjected to it as many never return to school and are forced into early marriages.
Education is seen as powerful tool in combating beliefs around FGM but Nimco Ali, CEO of The Five Foundation – a global partnership to end FGM – said efforts to eradicate the practice had been further complicated by the coronavirus pandemic.
‘Before COVID-19 Kenya was one of the most successful countries in terms of ending FGM.
‘We have now lost so much of that progress due to schools being closed and these mass FGM events happening.
‘This has broken my heart and shows that now more than ever we need to get funding to local activists to protect [girls].’
A former cutter in Uganda holds up a homemade tool adapted from a nail that she once used to practice FGM [File photo]
According to the United Nations, FGM is internationally recognised as ‘a violation of the human rights, the health and the integrity of girls and women.’
Despite this, it persists and is particularly concentrated in 30 African and Middle Eastern countries.
However the problem is a global one as it also occurs in some countries in Asia and Latin America and in immigrant communities worldwide.
UN figures state that in 2020 alone, some 4.1 million girls around the world are at risk of undergoing FGM.
Kenyan law expressly forbids FGM and criminalises anyone involved in arranging or carrying it out as well as anyone who fails to report an incident under the FGM Act 2011.
While some arrests have been made and cases have gone as far as being brought to court, implementation and enforcement remain a challenge due to lack of resources, difficulties reaching remote areas and a reluctance by some judges to implement sentences.
What is female genital mutilation (FGM)?
Female genital mutilation (FGM) involves the partial or total removal of external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.
The practice has no health benefits for girls and women and is not supported by any religious text.
FGM can cause severe bleeding and problems urinating, and later cysts, infections, as well as complications in childbirth and increased risk of newborn deaths.
More than 200 million girls and women alive today have been cut in 30 countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia where FGM is concentrated.
The practice also takes place in some Latin American countries and among immigrant communities worldwide.
FGM is mostly carried out on young girls between infancy and the age of 15.
Girls are commonly taken out of school after being subjected to the practice and forced into early marriage.
FGM is a violation of the human rights of girls and women.
The World Health Organization is opposed to all forms of FGM, and is opposed to health care providers performing FGM.
Despite being illegal in most countries, the practice persists as implementation and enforcement of laws are complicated by practical and cultural factors.
Treatment of health complications of FGM in 27 high prevalence countries costs $1.4 billion per year.
Source: World Health Organization (WHO)