By Gift Briton

Over the last two decades, Kenya has made great strides in the elimination of female genital mutilation (FGM), with the number of girls and women who have undergone the practice reducing from 38% in 1998 to 15% in 2022. However, there are emerging trends that still put thousands of them at risk.

Halima Abdi, Acting Director for Gender-based violence in the State Department for Gender, noted that the inclusion of communities in the campaign against FGM is central to its eradication.

Abdi was speaking on behalf of Veronica Nduva, Principal Secretary- State Department for Gender and Affirmative Action, during an event commemorating the International Day of zero tolerance for FGM held on 2nd February in Nairobi.

Halima Abdi during a meeting

She argued that some communities where the practice is the rampant claim that they were not consulted and did not take part in the development of FGM laws in the country and that they do not see FGM as mutilation but rather as an honorary rite of passage.

To that end, Halima said that it is incumbent upon actors in the gender movement to consult across all sectors in a more structured and analytic way, adding that, “communities that circumcise their girls must therefore be part of the solution and not part of the problem if zero FGM is to be achieved.”

“Today, girls are three times less likely to be subjected to FGM compared to three decades ago. However, progress needs to be 10 times faster to meet our target. The State Department for Gender and Affirmative Action is committed to enhancing the partnership with both state and private partners to strengthen our efforts and achieve the commitment towards ending all forms of FGM by 2026.”

According to WHO, FGM is the partial or total removal of the external genitalia or other injuries to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.

There are four types of FGM including type I (partial or total removal of clitoral glans and/or clitoral hood), type II (partial removal of clitoral glans and labia minora, with or without removal of labia majora), type III (narrowing of vaginal orifices with Creation of a covering seal by cutting and positioning of the labia minora and or the labia majora with or without excision of the clitoris), and type IV(other harmful procedures to the female genitalia for non-medical purposes, for example, nicking, pricking, piercing, incising, scraping and cauterization).

FGM is prevalent in 22 counties in the country but remains high in some ethnic groups such as Somali (94%), Samburu (87%), Kisii (84%) and Maasai (78%). Moreover, among the 42 ethnic groups in Kenya, only five (Luo, Luhya, Teso, Pokomo and Turkana) do not practice FGM.  The practice is mainly driven by socio-cultural norms and some communities believe that it controls libido and sexual desire and increases the marriageability of girls and more.

Prof. Patrick Muia Ndavi taking part in a panel discussion at the meeting

Prof. Patrick Ndavi, Coordinator-Africa Coordinating Centre for Abandonment of FGM (ACCAF), noted that complications of FGM depend on the type and extent of the procedure carried out.

According to him, immediate complications include hemorrhage, vaginal fistulae, ulceration of the genital region, death and more, while immediate obstetric complications include prolonged labor, postpartum hemorrhage (blood loss following vaginal delivery), vaginal tear during childbirth, stillbirth (the death or loss of a baby before or during delivery), including late complications such as menstrual problem, vaginal discharge and itching, chronic urinary tract infections and orgasmic dysfunction among others.