The country's intense campaign to end female genital mutilation appears to be bearing fruit with a new report indicating that the prevalence of the practice declined from 38 per cent in 1998 to 15 per cent in 2022, a 23 per cent drop in a quarter century.
The Kenya Demographic and Health Survey 2022 shows that since 2014, the number of circumcised women who were cut and had flesh removed decreased from 87 per cent to 70 per cent, while those whose genitals were sewn closed increased from nine per cent to 12 per cent.
The data shows that efforts by the government and non-governmental organisations to end the illegal practice are slowly bearing fruit.
Female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C), also known as female circumcision, is defined as any procedure that involves partial or total removal of the external genitalia and/or injury to the female genital organs, whether for cultural or any other non-therapeutic reasons.
According to the World Health Organization, the practice is a violation of human rights. This is despite being deeply rooted in religious and cultural beliefs over generations.
According to the report, the prevalence of FGM generally increases with age. Nine per cent of women aged 15–19 have been circumcised, compared with 23 per cent of women aged 45–49.
The data shows that, across all counties, respondents express good knowledge of female circumcision. Kisii and Wajir counties lead in the knowledge of the cut (100 per cent) followed by Samburu (99.8), West Pokot and Narok (99.4), Baringo (99) and Kilifi at 83 per cent.
According to the survey, the number of women circumcised in rural areas is higher (18.4 per cent) compared to 9.7 per cent in urban areas.
Education plays a key role in reducing FGM, with only 5.9 per cent of women who have post-secondary education circumcised compared to a whopping 56.3 per cent of women with no education.
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The number is 18.4 per cent for those with only primary education 10.4 per cent for high school graduates.
But even as the number of traditional circumcisers dwindles, cases of health officers conducting FGM have been reported in Tharaka Nithi, Wajir, and West Pokot counties, making the fight against the illegal practice more difficult.
The government has enacted laws prohibiting FGM, including the Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act, 2011, and the Children’s Act, 2022.