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Women ditch the knife after circumcising girls for decades

By Irissheel Shanzu | February 9th 2016

A large group of female circumcisers have abandoned the practice after over 50 years of practice.

Speaking yesterday at Ortum during a forum to campaign against the vice, the more than 20 women from Central Pokot sub-county said they decided to abandon the practice after they were arrested and jailed for exposing countless girls to the outdated practice.

“I did not know the practice was prohibited and when I saw my colleague get jailed for three years for practicing the vice, I decided to surrender,” said Maria Karlotou.

Karlotou, 80, said she immediately went to church and asked officials to pray for her.

“I always ask God to forgive me since I knew it was our culture and we needed to protect it as aged women in the community,” she said.

Karlotou said for the past 50 years, she has cut over 5,000 girls during December holidays.

Abandoned practice

She said poverty drove her to the practice. “I started the practice by cutting my first-born daughter. When I did it correctly, I knew I had a new income generating job. I could cut over 100 girls per season,” she said.

Karlotou said she abandoned the practice four years ago and asked church officials and the provincial administration to set up a school from where she could help girls further their education.

Following the move to abandon the vice, the women were trained on alternative sources of income by a local non-governmental organisation; Kepsteno Rotwoo Tipin.

The coordinator of the organisation, Moses Lokeres, said they have managed to rescue the women but their major challenge was lack of income to start alternative income-generating projects.

Lokeres asked well-wishers to help the women rebuild their lives. “The women are talented in making beads and can venture into the project if given a boost,” she said.

 Arrest culprits

Central Pokot sub-county assistant commissioner David Mutuku said last year, the region recorded fewer cases of female cut. “Meetings held throughout the year helped in ensuring that few girls were subjected to the vice,” she said.

Mutuku said only five cases were reported in the region and that parents together with the circumcisers were arrested and prosecuted.

He said the arrests have helped those who were stilling engaging in the practice to abandon it.

According to the recently launched Kenya Demographic and Household Survey 2014, at least 9.3 million girls and women in Kenya have undergone FGM, accounting for 6.64 per cent of about 140 million girls and women who have been cut worldwide.

Anti-Female Genital Mutilation Board Chair Jebii Kilimo said despite the FGM Act, which provides that those performing the act be arrested and charged in a court of law, the Government is faced with the challenge of arresting the perpetrators.

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