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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Kenya: Doctors asked to stop female cut operations

July 21, 2009 By CYNTHIA VUKETS and MIKE MWANIKI Doctors and nurses were on Monday asked to desist from carrying out female genital mutilation in their clinics. Health experts and human rights activists said the doctors’ performing of “the cut” was making the harmful practice more acceptable. Cutting or excision of young girls’ genitals is seen as a cultural or religious rite of passage in some communities. The vaginal opening is sewn up after the excision, leaving a small opening for sexual intercourse, childbirth and natural bodily functions. “All the natural processes of the body are affected,” said Unicef child protection regional advisor Margie de Monchy. The head of the division of reproductive health, Dr Josephine Kibaru, said 32 per cent of women aged 15 to 49 had undergone the rite. Girls, sometimes as young as four or five years, undergo FGM in 28 African countries, as well as parts of the Middle East, India, Indonesia and in diaspora populations in Europe and North America. Although Kenya outlawed FGM in girls under 18 in 2001, it is still practised. Traditionally performed by midwives and religious leaders, FGM is increasingly being done by medical professionals. This has been dubbed the “medicalisation of FGM”. In a meeting that started in Nairobi which will end on Wednesday, UN officials, medical professionals and representatives from the ministry of Public Health and Sanitation are discussing how to end this trend. Long-term “The value of medicalisation is being undermined because it’s legitimising the procedure,” said de Monchy, responding to a question on whether having health professionals perform the procedure would be safer. “A healthy procedure for the cutting won’t stop the long-term effects.” Immediate side effects of FGM include bleeding, shock and sometimes death due to infection or heavy bleeding. Long-term effects range from cysts to leaking urine and increased child mortality.