Female Genital Mutilation Illegalized as Kenya Passes Law Against ‘The Cut’
Crude instruments used for female circumcission
It is now illegal to practice female circumcision, procure the services of a circumciser, or send somebody out of the country to undergo the illegal ‘cut’. The recent Presidential accent of the “Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Bill, 2010” has made the 1999 ban on Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) into law. Offenders of this law will serve up to 7 years in prison and fines of up to Sh500, 000. Also, anyone who causes death in the process of carrying out FGM will be liable to life imprisonment. In addition, providing of premises for purposes of carrying out FGM, possession of tools associated with FGM or failure to report an incident of FGM knowingly are also punishable by law.
FGM, was for centuries performed openly in Kenya as a cultural rite; a transition into womanhood or as a way to appease ancestors. Despite the act being outlawed in 1999, the practice was still performed in secrecy or in ‘less severe forms’, posing difficulties in reporting and prosecution.
The Kenya Demographic Health Survey 2008/9 recorded a decline in the practice among communities, but the statistics are still alarming, necessitating the passing of the law. According to the report, approximately 28 percent of women in Kenya have undergone FGM, with the highest numbers being recorded among the Somalis and Kisii communities with 98 percent and 96 percent respectively. The Maasai have significantly reduced the practice though a 73 percent practice is still very high among them, and the same can be said for the Kalenjins who are at 48 percent.
In the Prohibition of FGM Act, 2010, unless the context otherwise requires… “female genital mutilation” comprises all procedures involving partial or total removal of the female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs, or any harmful procedure to the female genitalia, for non-medical reasons.
The provisions do not include a “sexual reassignment procedure” or a “medical procedure” that has a genuine therapeutic purpose. Sexual reassignment procedure in this case means any surgical procedure that is performed for the purposes of altering (whether wholly or partly) the genital appearance of a person to the genital appearance (as nearly as practicable) of a person of the opposite sex.
The Government of Kenya has firmed up its commitment in fighting FGM such that the law provides that the Government shall take necessary steps within its available resources to protect women and girls from FGM by providing support services to victims of FGM and undertaking public education to sensitize the people of Kenya on the dangers and adverse effects of female genital mutilation.
The Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Development is mandated to coordinate implementation activities of the FGM Prohibition Act through an Implementation Board it is tasked to constitute. The German Development Cooperation through the GIZ Health Sector Programme has been supporting since 15 years, the Kenyan Government in interventions towards eradicating FGM. GIZ is a member of the National Committee on Anti-FGM chaired by the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Development. One major milestone of the committee has been the close collaboration with the Kenya Women Parliamentarians (KEWOPA) that played a key role in pushing for the enactment of the FGM Prohibition Bill.
The historic law was passed by an Act of Parliament through a Private Members’ Bill, sponsored by Mt. Elgon Member of Parliament Fred Kapondi.
You may download the FGM Prohibition Act here: FGM Act
Photo Courtesy: kenyaforum.net