By Edward Indakwa
Across large swathes of western Kenya, this is the season when young boys are converted into men, courtesy of the village circumciser.
But having spent two weeks here, I’m alarmed that elders are not turning their sons into men, unless they are doing so under the cover of darkness.
I have only seen three boys, hardly aged ten, ringing bells in the age-old practice of summoning guts to face the knife. And even then, those boys were not dancing and prancing with a large retinue of excited followers. They were sitting lazily on the back end of a boda boda while two small boys followed at a half-hearted trot.
They could be two explanations for this. One, we’ve stopped giving birth.
But that is doubtful because my home district, Kakamega, is the most populous and our fair women the most fertile in the land.
Fair and fertile women
The second explanation, which I imagine to be true, is that a combination of poverty, (foreign) religion and ‘civilisation’ has dealt a deathblow to the ancient rite of passage. These days, a cut has been reduced to a perfunctory exercise to control the spread of HIV, not turn boys into responsible adults.
Curiously, while the male cut assumes irrelevance, the female cut, which is illegal and serves no useful purpose apart from causing marital strife and enhancing maternity bills, remains. Rumour even has it that in some parts of Kenya, the people who chop little girls are not dirty old women but trained nurses.
So what is the boy child to do under the circumstances? He got circumcised in hospital where the only thing the medic said was, “Lie still!” meaning he practically remained the lad that he was – no life lessons passed on.
That left him with one option: School. But if his father is too poor to lay out an expensive circumcision ceremony, then it follows that he won’t afford to take him to school either.
The result is that we have an army of Standard Eight dropouts who are neither boys nor men. Their options in life are limited.