INTENSIFYING GLOBAL EFFORTS AND SHARING GOOD PRACTICES TO EFFECTIVE ELIMINATE FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION – RESOLUTION 27/22 ADOPTED SEPTEMBER 2014- KENYA PRACTICES
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) continues to be a serious social and health problem in Kenya directly affecting girls and women. The practice has lead to physical injuries, death, emotional stress and psychological suffering, complications during child birth for women, infections caused by lack of sterilized equipment including transmission of various infections such as including HIV, early marriage of young girls and termination of their formal education. Aside from such social and health problems, the practice of FGM continues to discriminate women and girls and prevents their full and equal enjoyment of their human rights. FGM is a manifestation of gender based violence in the country.
In Kenya FGM is defined as operation involving partial or total removal of the external female sex organ (known as the vagina) or other injury to the vagina without any medical reasons1. The operations are practiced in four different ways, namely:
The cutting out of the skin that covers the clitoris with or without cutting out part or the entire clitoris -the clitoris is a small sensitive organ located above the entrance of the vagina.(Clitoridectomy)
The cutting out of the clitoris with partial or total cutting out of the labia minora-labia minora is the smaller folds of skin within the vagina.(Excision)
The Piercing or cutting the vagina, burning the clitoris or even pouring corrosive chemicals into the vagina(Unclassified)
2.1.1 The Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act No. 32 of 2011
The Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act No. 32 of 2011(herein the FGM law) became law on 4th October 2011. This law was a culmination of many years of activism by the civil society raising the alarm over the increase in the practice of FGM in Kenya. The Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act (PFGM, Act) is a great success towards eradication of the vice and an improvement from the existing laws on female genital mutilation offences in Kenya which were mainly contained in the Children’s Act and the Penal code. The FGM act provides for the protection from and prevention of FGM. The law also provides for advocacy promoting the rights of women and girls.
Outstanding features of the FGM Act include;
The fact that the law does not allow any person taken to court over any of the offences to claim that culture requirements or religious beliefs or consent of the victim or even ignorance of the law was the reason for the act.
The law punishes anyone who aids or abeit the practice
The Act has punished medicalization of FGM – act carried out by example, doctors, clinical officers, nurses, midwife or medical students.
The offence of hiring a person to perform female genital mutilation in another country or inviting the person to Kenya to carrying out the exercise.
The offence of use of premises to perform female genital mutilation
Offence of failure to report commission of the act of FGM
Offence of using abusive language meant to ridicule, embarrass or harm a woman for having not undergone FGM, or a man for marrying or supporting woman who has not undergone FGM.
Other Supporting legislations include;
The Constitution of Kenya, 2010 - The foundation of the FGM law is the Kenya Constitution which guarantees women and children the right to be free from all forms of discrimination; the right to dignity and physical integrity, including freedom from violence; the right to health and the right not to be compelled to undergo any harmful cultural practices. Article 44 prevents any person from forcing another person to perform, observe, or undergo any cultural practice or rite such as FGM. Equally, Article 53 on protects children from harmful cultural practices such as FGM and Article 53 requires the government to put into place programmes such as awareness creation in order to protect the youth from harmful cultural practices.
The Children’s Act, 2001- does not allow any person to perform FGM and other harmful practices that “negatively affect” children (persons under 18 years), providing a penalty of twelve months imprisonment and/or a fine not exceeding fifty thousand shillings.
Penal Code - outlaws the deliberate infliction of “grievous bodily harm” (which includes FGM)on anyone
The Medical Practitioners and Dentist Act- practitioners performing FGM will have their licenses revoked.
Nurses Act- Nurses performing FGM will have their licenses revoked.
NATIONAL FGM POLICY.
The main purpose of the Policy is to establish a clear vision on FGM and make commitments that would guide and accelerate abandonment of FGM. The policy is currently being reviewed to be in line with the Constitution of Kenya 2010. The following are the proposals. The Government should;
Build capacity for law enforcement officers through training and educate the girls and women on the rights of girls and women to be protected against FGM.
Hold public awareness campaigns aimed at educating and encouraging the public to support the legislative efforts to abandon FGM.
Develop and improve services for access to justice, recovery, rehabilitation and integration of girls and women who have suffered from FGM. This can be done by identifying a child/woman and help them get access to justice or a rehabilitation centre.
Promote male involvement in the FGM abandonment programme because this is not just a woman’s problem.
Involve community leaders, chiefs, traditional circumcisers, opinion leaders in awareness programmes to foster ownership of the process by the communities and minimize opposition to the FGM abandonment.
Collaborate with the police, opinion leaders, chiefs and community leaders to provide support services in terms of protection.
NATIONAL FGM PLAN OF ACTION
The plan of action is targeted to enable all partners at all levels to make the best use of their individual and collective support for an effective and efficient national response to FGM and avoid duplication and fragmentation of resources. The plan of action is the foundation of Government and civil society unity in fighting FGM; national coordinated action. This process if supported by United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and UNICEF
This is the main government agency responsible for managing programs on FGM. It is responsible for protecting women and girls from FGM, provide support services to victims of FGM and undertaking public education to sensitize communities practicing FGM about the law and dangers of FGM. The board works in partnership with other agencies and organisations to ensure arrests of offenders whenever reports are made to the board, provide shelter, medical aid, legal aid and other requirements for the victim of FGM.
2.5 SERVICES FOR WOMEN AND GIRLS LIVING WITH FGM/ AT RISK OF FGM
Kenya Government in collaboration with United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) implements a joint programme that works toward combating FGM in line with United Nations Development Agency Fund (UNDAF) that looks at transformational governance. The agencies collaborate with various NGOs to provide the following services
Training of service providers
Resource mobilization – funds to support FGM interventions
Whereas the law is targeted at apply in the whole country, these services are intensified in the regions where FGM is prevalent. There are several Civil Society lead outreach programmes to educate the communities against FGM
Key successes these services include;
National Coordination and management of FGM by both Government and Civil Society. There exists a National Secretariat that provides the lead in fighting FGM in the Country.
The National coordination has lead to the engagement of cultural elders (Culture gatekeepers) to engage in discussions of the harm FGM cause on girls and women. Certain community elders example “Njuri Njeke” – cultural leaders of the Meru, Cultural leaders of the Kuria, Pokot were engaged and upon agreeing to dropping the act they went ahead to form cultural punishments for those found still carrying out the act. These leaders also made declarations in their communities banning FGM and instead support girl child empowerment.
Certain counties such as Baringo, Naivasha, Samburu, Kuria formed networks of different stakeholders working on FGM. These networks are chaired by the respective children’s officers who also lead the fight against harmful cultural practices on children. The networks monitor and identify perpetrators frop arrest and prosecution. They also provide preventive measures by increasing awareness levels at the community level
There have also been instances where the Government and Civil Society work together to support the Alternative Rite of Passage (ARP).ARP has been used to enable the girls still go through life skills education, health and hygiene classes and general maturity talks without undergoing the cut.
Religious Leaders Both Christian and Muslim have publicly denounced FGM to have no basis in religion. This greatly helped especially in communities that believed FGM was religious.
Media Support – Various media houses have taken up FGM seriously and have continuously highlighted FGM as an issue of national concern-reporting on the occurrence of FGM. The media has also reported on positive developments such as;
Jailing of perpetrators of FGM,
Girls undergoing Alternative Rites of Passage
Opinion leaders’ declaration against FGM.
Judicial Engagement – Prosecution and Improvement of perpetrators – The government established an Anti FGM Unit under the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) office that leads the arrest and prosecution of persons practicing FGM. Various CSOs have joined efforts in ensuring convictions. Federation of women lawyers recently provided support to the police and DPP office in prosecution of perpetrator of FGM who was sentenced for 7 years in prison. The accused appeal was equally denied. This case will be used as a precedent in creating a awareness on the seriousness of the law. Attached is the judgement.
Demographic Health Survey (DHS) – Kenya has now included data collection on FGM in the national statistics to advise development strategy. FGM is now nationally acknowledged as detrimental to the country’s development.
FGM is illegal in Kenya hence finding information on who are the service providers is anchored on high level investigations for purposes of prosecution. The information is not easily available. NGOs working on FGM more often than not, while working with communities are able to identify the service providers and where applicable sort for their arrest.
There are however organisation that identify the service providers for purposes of changing their attitudes and where possible show them an alternative source of income once they down their tools of trade (Trade in FGM). The reformers are then targeted for the anti FGM campaigns in their communities
A major challenge to FGM in Kenya is the increased medicalization of FGM. When the act is done in collaboration with the medics, it becomes almost impossible to realize the act has taken place and more difficult to prosecute parties to the action
Although policies and strategies have been developed monitoring of the progress made remains a challenge. Example there are cases where even after passing through the alternative rite of passage girls are still sneaked to undergo the cut
Not all cultural elders in the targeted regions were converted hence FGM still continues to enjoy the backing of such elders thus difficult to have attitude change among the communities.
Inadequate knowledge by community members on the law of FGM and National Policy. This inhibits community members participation in ending FGM
Political interference – some politicians continue to support FGM on the pretext of promoting their constituents’ culture and giving the people identity.
Corruption – leading to release of perpetrators and/or no arrests.
5.0 LESSONS LEARNT
The existing laws and policies without proper monitoring and evaluation are not effective to combat FGM. Although legislation is a key strategy in preventing the practice, legal instruments by themselves cannot end the practice since traditions and beliefs are strong and deeply rooted in societies. Legislation must go hand in hand with education and awareness to have a lasting change.
Ending FGM lies more in change of attitudes/Culture than implementation of the law. Communities find a way of circumventing the laws…as already stated, medicalization of FGM is one of the current major challenges.
1 Laws of Kenya, The Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act of 2011