Let us join hands and fight FGM, it's still a big threat to girls and women

By Evalyne Githinji | Sep 13, 2023
Rev Fr Joseph Mutie Chair, Inter Religious Council of Kenya displays Anti-FGM message placard during inter religious Anti FGM Festival at the Church of Latter Saints, Upper Hill Nairobi on September 9, 2023. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Recent findings by researchers from Universities of Birmingham and Exeter published by Nature Scientific Reports indicates that Female genital mutilation (FGM) is the foremost cause of death in nations where it is practised, with over 44,000 additional women and young girls dying annually.

The researchers established that a 50 per cent increase in the number of girls undergoing FGM, increases their five-year mortality rate and causes an estimated 44,320 excess deaths annually across nations where the practise takes place.

The researchers analysed the numbers of girls subjected to FGM in Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Cote d’Ivoire, Egypt, Ethiopia, Guinea, Kenya, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Tanzania.

It is catastrophic that in this modern age, Africa has to fathom how to deal with such retrogressive practises.

FGM encompasses all procedures involving the removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons, according to the World Health Organisation.

The FGM procedure is normally carried out in women at a variety of ages and is performed using sharp objects such as knives or razor blades.

FGM was officially recognised as a form of violence against women and a violation of human rights in the 1993 Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women. Once the practice ends, it will be a contributory factor to the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal targets.

In Kenya, FGM is outlawed as per The Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act which was passed on 30 September 2011 and enforced on October 4, 2011. Part IV of the Act criminalises FGM, The Act mentions that if FGM is carried out and causes death, the perpetrator ought to be imprisoned for life. The Act also criminalises an individual who takes another person inside or outside Kenya to perform FGM on her. The Act further criminalises people who aid FGM.

FGM is an archaic practice that should not be tolerated in any set-up and needs to be countered by all means possible.

There are various reasons why females practice FGM; for cultural redemption, some do it to qualify for marriage, have a sense of belonging or acceptance in the community, it can be a rite of passage or a way of enhancing hygiene.

FGM is slowly creeping back to areas that had stopped practising it during the pre-colonial era, all in the name of cultural redemption.

The instantaneous consequences of FGM include bleeding, severe pain, injury to adjacent genital tissue, straining to pass urine and in some cases, death. It is unfortunate that this practice can also lessen coital pleasure and cause psychological problems such as post-traumatic stress disorder in women.

During childbirth, the scar tissue can tear intensifying the previous FGM injury causing severe health related problems to the woman. Genital mutilation in mothers can also affect their newborn babies.

Time is nigh to address the FGM menace before it becomes a necessary evil frowned upon during the day but embraced and practised in the wee hours of the night or confines of uttermost secrecy. If tolerated, young girls will be manipulated or coerced to undergo FGM to the detriment of their future.

We stand to lose a lot as a nation if we condone such practices that pose serious dangers to our womenfolk. Joint efforts from the entire society will help in winning this fight majorly through adequate sensitisation on the dangers of FGM. Whistle-blowers within the community need to be protected and perpetrators disciplined.

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