By CAROLINE NYANGA
She was only 17 when she had her genitals cut at the hands of an elderly neighbour. But Evelyne Cheruto, now 28, still remembers the toothless smile of the government official who should have prevented it from happening. Instead he stood by, waiting outside the homestead for her and 12 other girls to undergo the traditional ritual, even though he knew it was illegal.
The chief respected the traditional law that disallowed men from treaspassing inside the ring of mud huts during the ceremony. But he had no misgivings about condoning a crime against the country’s secular laws that was about to take place. Or the gross violation of human rights—a violent act against a helpless child.
Cheruto was physically and mentally scarred from the infibulation — a procedure that involved removing tissue deep inside her body, and one that would make passing urine painful for the rest of her life.
The sharp knife reflected the chill of the dawn as it was six O’clock in the morning.
All around were smiles and hushed laughter.
There were also expectations. The main focus for most of the people standing in and around the boma was to get it over and done with, but not out of sympathy for the teenage Cheruto. They were waiting for the party and merriment later in the day that accompanied such ceremonies.
A Standard Six drop out from Kokworitit Primary in Lumut Village, Cheruto had no idea what would befall her after the so-called right of initiation into womanhood.
The procedure left her badly injured. And although she was lucky to get pregnant with her then boyfriend, Cheruto found herself in labour for three days — something that cost her baby’s life.
For three years now, Cheruto has a problem of uncontrolled passage of urine despite undergoing a series of treatment prescribed at various local hospitals.
But the saddest part of it all is that Cheruto may not be able to have babies or sex for the rest of her life.
“It’s a nightmare for me having to live with the pain that I can no longer carry on with my duties as a woman. Let alone getting a man to marry me,” she says, tears rolling down her cheeks.