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Government incorporates young people in efforts to end FGM

With FGM having been outlawed, the government is using all means in its hands to ensure that the harmful cultural practices is completely abandoned.

At the national level, the government is incorporating young people to take lead in ending the vice. According to the Anti-FGM Board chair person Agnes Pareiyo, the board has brought the youth on board to spearhead anti-FGM campaigns across their counties.

“The young men and the boys are crucial components in terms of protecting their sisters from the cut and openly declaring that they are ready to marry girls who are not cut. We strongly believe that FGM must end with this generation.”

A recent study by UNICEF and the Anti-FGM Board reveals that the FGM/C prevalence rate among all girls and women in Marsabit County currently stand at 91 percent. 

Bernadette Loloju, the Anti-FGM Board Chief Executive Officer blames the high prevalence rate on cross border FGM which remains a big challenge in the area. “More parents are taking their daughters to neighbouring countries to escape our stringent laws.”

The Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act 2011 criminalizes all forms of FGM/C performed on anyone, regardless of age or status including training to become an FGM/C practitioner.

It further criminalizes causing death as a result of performing FGM/C, aiding and abetting FGM/C, procuring of a person to perform FGM/C in another country, use of premises to perform FGM/C and possession of tools or equipment for purposes connected to performing FGM/C,

On conviction, these offences attract imprisonment for a minimum term of three years, or a fine of not less than KSh200,000 or both.

Further, the Children’s Act, 2001, criminalizes subjecting a child to harmful cultural practices. The Penal Code, Chapter 63, also provides offences under which the circumcisers can be charged. The Protection against Domestic Violence Act, 2015 classifies FGM as violence. 

In addition to the laws, the fight against harmful cultural practices has received greater political will in recent times.  

There is also establishment of an Anti-FGM Unit and an FGM/C and child marriage hotline in order to streamline the prosecutorial management of FGM/C cases in Kenya and to facilitate the reporting of cases for timely intervention respectively.

But despite the gains, cross-border FGM matters continue to complicate the elimination of the practice locally. This includes the high prevalence rates in counties bordering Somali, Uganda, Tanzania and Ethiopia.

The joint study by UNICEF and the Anti FGM board found that the Rendille in Marsabit whose prevalence rate currently stand at 98 percent borders Oromiya and Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples’ (SNNP) regions with FGM/C prevalence rates of 87 percent and 71 percent respectively.

The Somali in Wajir and Garissa counties border Juba and Gedo regions in Somalia where FGM/C is at 98 percent.  The Maasai bordering Arusha and Kilimanjaro regions in Tanzania, with estimated FGM/C prevalence rates of 57 percent and 22percent respectively. The Pokot on the other hand border Karamoja region in Uganda with an FGM/C prevalence rate of 5 percent.

“The practice has become so pervasive that Kenya, Somalia, Uganda, Tanzania, and Ethiopia have found it necessary to sign a declaration to stop FGM escalation across their borders,” says Pareiyo.

According to Loloju, UNFPA will be supporting the five countries to carry out cross border survey to get statistics on how the situation looks like. In addition, the five countries plan to roll out joint activities across their borders to address the high prevalence rates.  

“In April 2019, Ministers of Gender from the affected countries met and formed a technical working group which has already drafted a cross border action plan to help stop the escalation of FGM across our borders,” said Loloju.

“The draft is to be presented to the Ministers who will give us a go ahead to do validation which will now pave way for its implementation.”

In 2019, the Masai Elders drawn from Kenya and Tanzania made a commitment at Loita that they will take care of Loita border in terms of cross border FGM. 

“If we can have each community agree on their border line, then this will give us a push on how we move forward. It is the communities themselves that will end FGM,” notes Loloju.