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Thursday, August 18, 2011

Female genital mutilation in Pakistan, and beyond

August 18, 2011
The Express Tribune Blogs
Aneka Chohan

According to the World Health Organisation, female genital mutilation (FGM) is defined as all “procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.”

The process is carried out for a wide number of reasons, none of which have positive health implications. As a social cause, young girls and their families are pressurized to surrender to the tradition of FGM that has been carried out for generations.

People who practice female genital mutilation are motivated by the belief that by mutilating the female genitalia, a girl will feel no difficulty in resisting “illicit” sexual acts. Moreover, the fear of experiencing pain that comes with the opening of the stitches of the narrowed/covered vaginal opening is said to prevent further “illicit” relations amongst women and men.

However, women who have been through the ordeal of FGM have clarified that the practice has not benefited them in any way. In fact, it is the source of incredibly painful ordeals throughout pregnancy, childbirth and intercourse.

The sad reality, however, is that although FGM is widely common in African countries, most people are unaware that this brutal practice is in Pakistan too.

What happens in Pakistan

In Pakistan, the act of FGM is practiced amongst select areas and communities – one example being the Bohra Muslims. There are roughly about 100,000 Bohra Muslims in the country, mostly in the southern regions of Pakistan, such as Sindh. In recent years, due to a rise in strict sect religious compliance by the Bohra Muslims, the practice of FGM has increased. Unless the Bohra chief, known as Dai, issues a decree to forbid the act, the practice will remain firmly rooted in the people’s culture and will continue to be practiced.

Countless news reports from all over the world have provided sound proof to support the immense damage that FGM can cause.

Take, for instance, the news report about a girl who went through the traumatic ordeal of FGM at the age of six – a fact uncovered at age 12, when doctors were investigating what they thought was a cyst. However, the girl had become infertile due to years of menstrual blood being blocked, prevented from leaving her body due to the stitching of her vaginal opening.

Another report mentioned a story of a woman who went for a check-up. The midwife was examining her and suddenly ran out of the room, retching and crying after she saw the state of the patient’s genitals.

It is not just the young women of Pakistan but also British girls of Pakistani origin who are subjected to this procedure. Young British girls pack their bags with their favourite outfits, books and toys and jump with joy at the thought of six weeks of holiday with their relatives. However, many young girls are unaware that their parents are taking them to Pakistan to carry out the FGM procedure.

What clerics say

Since the State of Pakistan is an Islamic country, let’s take a look at what Islam says about the practice.

To begin with, the Holy Quran does not bear even a single mention of female circumcision. In addition to this, there is no Hadith that mandates this practice. However, some have argued that one Hadith, although not requiring it, appears to accept the practice:

“Circumcision is a commendable act for men (Sunnah) and is an honourable thing for women” (Makromah).

This Hadith is criticised on the grounds that a distinction is made between male circumcision, which is described in a stronger way, whilst a weaker explanation is offered for female circumcision, which is not required religiously.

But ask yourself: how is cutting or partially/completely removing parts of the female genitalia an honourable thing for women? What is it that makes it honourable? Is it the pain or the abnormal sight of a mutilated body?

The glaring fact is that this practice leads to a tremendous amount of pain, infections, a battle with child birth, infertility in women, and in severe cases, even death.

Sheikh Talib, Dean of the Faculty of Shariah of Al Azhar, has said:

“all practices of female circumcision and mutilation are crimes and have no relationship with Islam.”

This statement is supported by the fact that the procedure of FGM pre-dates the life of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and the beginning of Islam.

FGM is not something that “purifies” a woman or preserves their virginity. It is a practice that mutilates a woman’s body and damages her in the most appalling of ways. Parents who hold their daughters’ arms and legs down, forcing them to go through this terrible crime, are not maintaining their family’s honour. They are, in fact, severely reducing the chances of their daughter’s bearing children. They are, thus, eliminating opportunities that may bless them with future generations and eventually, they will have no trace of themselves on earth.Once again, from an Islamic perspective, God creates men and women alike, in the best design possible. Surely, it is wrong to alter the design that God has put together in the human form. Everyone has the right to respect their body and demand the same respect from everyone else. No one, regardless of whether they are parents or so-called health professionals, has the right to destroy a woman’s ability to bear children or damage her body. FGM is, hence, a crime, sitting at the top rung of immorality.

Perhaps, a young girl is screaming in pain right, at this very moment, as you read this article.

However, it is not too late – we can still make a difference.

We can rise up, and raise our voices for those innocent girls whose families have FGM in plan for them. One voice may not be loud enough but when an entire assembly of voices resound together, it makes a difference and causes peoples’ heads to turn. Let us, thus, rise up together, and put a stop to this torture.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Meru elders on the spot over FGM

August 13, 2011
Capital FM News
Judie Kaberia

The Maendeleo ya Wanawake organisation has challenged the Njuri Ncheke council of elders to step up its sensitisation programme on the negative effects of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).

Organisation chairperson Rukia Subow said despite the council making a public declaration against the cultural practice two years ago, its effects were yet to be felt at the grassroots.

Speaking when she visited seven girls who are recuperating at Mutuati sub-district hospital after they were forcibly circumcised on Monday, Ms Subow said the elders failure to reach the grassroots had contributed to the thriving of the cultural practice.

“In 2009 the elders publicly declared war against FGM. It is still happening. We feel the elders should make their declaration felt on the ground. We would wish to have a dialogue with the elders since the effects are not being seen,” said Ms Subow.

Ms Subow also called for speedy implementation of the laws against FGM to deter surgeons and parents who still embrace the practice.

“Before anything is done, the culprits must be brought to book. We need the law implemented so that those who practice it can think twice before doing it,” she said.

But defending the council, Njuri Ncheke Secretary General Phares Ruteere said the practice remained illegal and the elders would meet to strategise on a new approach.

The girls from Mukorene village in Akirang’ondu location were rescued by the area chief as they were being mutilated at a secluded area inside a miraa farm.

Nursing officer in charge of Mutuati hospital Janet Njiru said one of the girls was pregnant while another had already lost consciousness at the time of arrival at the medical facility.

“They were brought here having lost a lot of blood. One of them was also in semi-consciousness,” she said.

Ms Njiru said the girls were given anti-tetanus injections and given antibiotics to treat any infections.

She said the girls were in a stable condition but in excruciating pain. “The pregnant girl may suffer a tear during delivery,” said Ms Njiru.

Igembe North acting District Commissioner Macharia Njinu said police in Laare were also holding an evangelical church priest and his wife after three of their also underwent the illegal cut.

An elderly lady who was taking instructions on how to take care of the girls was also arrested.

“The girls were rescued in a miraa farm next to the pastor’s home. The surgeon fled the scene,” said the administrator.

He said the area Chief Mr Joshua Katheria had been tipped off that a well known traditional surgeon from Tigania area was in the village to carry out a mass mutilation on girls during the holidays.

It is then that the chief launched investigations and found as she had already concluded the exercise on the seven girls.

Mr Njinu said six of the girls were class five and class six pupils.

He said the exercise was prevalent in the area despite a vigorous campaign involving the Njuri Ncheke elders, church leaders and the provincial administration.

“We are very vigilant. We are working with Caritas relief agency and the elders to ensure the cultural practice is ended,” said Mr Njinu.

He said the cultural practice contributed to high school dropout cases and early marriages.

The Children’s Act (2001) criminalises subjection of children to FGM and those found violating this law like the above cases are subject to prison.

Another legislation which seeks to strengthen the law criminalising FGM, the Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Bill 2010, will shut loopholes in the current law. The 2010 law will remove the requirement for the police to obtain a warrant to enter premises where they suspect FGM is taking place.

Over the past years, FGM has been on the decline due to active campaigns detailing the consequences of having girls going through the cut.

Influential women, who underwent the cut and have somehow made it in life, have been at the forefront speaking against it.

However, due to heavy cultural ties in some communities, eradicating FGM remains a challenge.

Friday, August 12, 2011

FGM Gone Bad in Meru

August 10, 2011
Kenya Citizen TV

Combating female genital mutilation lacks funding

August 13, 2011
The Portugal News Online

While terming the subject taboo, a group working with Guinean immigrants says female genital mutilation (FGM) exists among the community in Portugal.

Susana Piegas, of the Association of Guinean Immigrants and Friends of South Tagus, told Lusa News Agency the problem was “very present” in largely poor and immigrant communities, such as Vale da Amoreira, a Lisbon suburb.

Although no firm statistics could be ascertained, “the numbers are terrifying”, she said Saturday.

Piegas explained that not only had cases been identified in the community but that the mutilation itself was taking place in Portugal.

Members of the European campaign ‘End Female Genital Mutilation’, Amnesty International and the Portuguese Association for Family Planning have lamented the lack of funding and coordination targeting instances of this human rights abuse in Portugal.

Amnesty’s Ana Margarida Ferreira further identified the need for greater awareness by the state immigration services, that FGM itself represented grounds for political asylum.

This comes despite the government having presented its second “Zero Tolerance of FGM” last February that promised a “change in cultural values” and “strengthening preventive measures”.

The European Parliament has estimated that 500,000 women across the European Union have been subject to such mutilation with as many as 180,000 at risk annually.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Uganda: Sebei, Karamoja Girls Leave School Over Circumcision

August 10, 2011
The Daily Monitor
Steven Ariong

Rose Chebet, a resident of Kaserem Parish in Kaserem Sub-county in Kapchorwa District, dropped out of school because she had to flee her home, fearing that she would be circumcised.

She said she could not access formal education when she went into hiding and was forced to return to her village to resumed her education.

Forced circumcision

"When I returned home, my parents started harassing me. They forced me to be circumcised. I was older then and I was not comfortable at school and I abandoned school," Chebet said. She dropped out of school in Primary Six after her circumcision.

Chebet said she wants to enroll in a vocational school to get some skills on how to earn a living but she does not have money for school fees. Mr James Cherop, the head teacher of a private primary school in Kaserem Sub- County, expressed concern over the high number of girls who drop out of school due to female circumcision.

He said most girls are forced to get married after circumcision. Pokot girls in Amudat District are also facing the same plight. However, the Amudat District Chairman, Mr William Bwatum, said there is a reduction in the practice in the district due to the introduction of laws against the practice and the interventions of the non-governmental organisations.


However, girls like Chebet can now have some hope after The Inter African Committee, Uganda (IACU), an NGO fighting female circumcision in Sebei sub-region and Karamoja, announced a plan to build four vocational schools for girls who have dropped out of primary school due to female circumcision.

Ms Linda Osereren, a senior programme officer with the NGO, said the vocational schools will be built in Kapchorwa, Kween, Bukwo and Amudat districts.

She said the vocational institutes will also cater for vulnerable boys.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Interview with Waris Dirie in Indian “Society Magazine”

August 6, 2011
Desert Flower Foundation

Waris Dirie was interviewed by the largest Indian Magazine, “Society Magazine” earlier this month. Here’s an excerpt from the interview. You can download a scan of the entire article here.

They say 150 million women worldwide have undergone FGM. Is this number growing?

Any number is only an estimation, since it is impossible to “measure” how many women and girls are affected by FGM. We can see that some communities are successfully moving away from this cruel practice, while others continue to mutilate their daughters despite changes in laws in many countries worldwide. In addition to the situation in the countries of origin such as many African countries and countries like Indonesia, there is the problem of “imported FGM” in Europe, North America and Australia, where immigrant communities continue practicing FGM, some even while the situation in their countries of origin is improving.

What are the psychological impacts of FGM, since its effects are long lasting?

Both the physical and the psychological consequences of FGM affect its victim for all her life. The procedure itself is traumatizing and the psychological effects can be manifold. You suffer from depression, flashbacks and nightmares for the rest of your life. You are on high risk when giving birth to a child and you suffer from chronicle pain and permanent inflammations.

Is the practice limited to a certain geographical area or is it a cultural phenomenon?

FGM occurs almost everywhere in the world nowadays due to international migration. The main geographical regions affected are Africa, especially East and West Africa, with a very high prevalence rate of up to 95% and some countries in Asia, for example Indonesia, Malaysia or Kurdistan (Northern Iraq). The practice is deeply rooted in these societies, but it would be wrong to call it a “cultural” practice. Mutilating a child is not culture, it is a crime on innocent girls and it seeks justice. The sole purpose is limiting the possibilities and the freedom of women in these societies.

What are the ways to curb this practice?

There are many factors that have to be considered in order to successfully curb the practice of female genital mutilation.

First of all, there is a huge need for education. The people who practice this have to know what they are doing to their children, both in terms of their physical and their mental health. Then there is the economic aspect: selling one’s daughter for marriage remains a widespread practice in many societies that practice FGM, and the mutilation is what makes a girl ready for marriage. (People believe a mutilated woman will be faithful, because sex is painful.)

This is why I believe the economic aspect is extremely important for a successful campaign against FGM.

Please tell us about Desert Flower Foundation’s work on this issue and their future projects.

Besides educational campaigns all over the world, the Desert Flower Foundation is working on improving the financial situation of women in Africa.

I am convinced that no mother would sell her own child if she truly had a choice. Having a job and earning a reliable income is what gives these women the choice NOT to mutilate their daughters. My foundation is working on several projects that create qualified jobs for women in Africa.

Tell us something about your personal fight against FGM.

My work is very personal by definition, since I am myself a victim of FGM. Speaking out against this practice is something I have to do and I will not stop addressing this topic until not one child on this planet will become a victim of FGM.

I raise awareness on the issue through my books, the film “Desert Flower”, the information provided on the Desert Flower Foundation’s website, my blog and my Facebook Page and Twitter.

I receive thousands of Emails from people seeking information, from the media, but also from victims asking for help and advice. I spread knowledge on FGM through interviews for newspapers, Magazines, big TV and radio stations, and I speak at international conferences, universities and schools.

Have campaigning against FGM been always something that you have pictured doing?

From the day of my mutilation on, I knew that one day I would fight against this crime. Even though I was a very young child, only 5 years old, I knew immediately that what had happened to me was wrong. That day, I decided that I would fight against it. I did not know what “campaigning” was or how I would do it, but I knew that I would help save future generations of girls from this crime. When I became successful as a model, I knew that my chance to be heard had come and I took it.

What projects are you presently involved in?

I am involved in all of the projects of my foundation that I described above. I am also involved in a project that seeks to find an international logo for human rights, initiated by the German Foreign Office. On , people can submit their own designs for a logo for human rights and I am a board member of the PPR Foundation with my friend Salma Hayek and her husband Francois Pinault. We support projects for women worldwide.

How has life been different for you from being a supermodel and UN Ambassador?

My success as a model has of course changed my life, but it did not change me as a person. It gave me a lot of possibilities and chances, which I am very thankful for. Being a UN Ambassador helped to raise awareness on FGM, but when it comes to actions, I rather rely on myself than on a huge organization such as the UN, which is impacted by so many political interests.

Has there been a mentor/a helping hand/inspiration with your fight with this social evil?

The countless girls all over Africa and the world that I want to see healthy and happy are my inspiration and my great team of the Desert Flower Foundation.

Other than being a UN ambassador, what defines Waris Dirie? Tell us about your other passions in life.

My children are my biggest passion. I love nature and music. Spending time with my family in the nature is happiness to me.

Was adapting the book into a movie always something you had in mind?

The idea had been there for many years, but things never quite came together. I was skeptical in the beginning, but this project convinced me. I liked the fact that the movie was directed by a woman, Sherry Horman, and I knew that the producer, Peter Herrmann, had a big knowledge about Africa, since he won an Oscar for Best Foreign Film for his production, “Nowhere in Africa”, in 2003.

Why was Liya Kebede chosen to play as you in the movie?

Sherry sent me a DVD with several women who auditioned for a role. I was on holiday with my oldest son Aleeke. While watching a scene with Liya Kebede, he came in and asked “Is that you in the video, mum?”. That’s how I realized the similarities between us.

How has the whole experience of bringing out the movie ‘Desert Flower’ been?

Very emotional. It was extremely difficult to see the movie for the first time, especially the scenes from my childhood. They still give me goose bumps every time I see the movie.

I knew that the movie would be a great chance to reach even more people than through my books and campaigns alone. And it worked; the movie generated a lot of media attention for the issue of FGM since it has been shown in 37 countries already. By the way, the movie is not out in India yet and I would love to come to India to present the movie, if somebody would invite me. I heard and read so much about your country, but I have never been there.

To see the work appreciated must be fulfilling, what was the best compliment you have received so far?

The most emotional screening of the movie for me personally was in Ethiopia, when I was able to bring my whole family from Somalia to the premiere in Addis Ababa. It meant a lot to me that my mother congratulated me for the movie.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Why the Sabiny are gritty to female circumcision

July 30, 2011
Daily Monitor
David Mafabi

Changing the life style of the people living in Kween, Kapchorwa and Bukwo districts at the slopes of Mt Elgon in order to end the traditional Female Genital Mutilation FGM is proving a headache to local leadership in the region.

Although like United Nations health experts, the district leadership is calling for stronger commitments from the local people to end the FGM in bid to restore the dignity of the girl-child, many traditionalist are not ready to drop the practice.

As I approach Chesmat village in Kapyoyon sub-county in Kween district, a young girl Ms Sarah Chelimo, 15, leads a group of girls in a traditional circumcision song in Kupsabiny.

“Tombo chemuto owo! tombo chemuto owo! Mariwey, tombo chemuto! tumbo chemuto owo. Chebo namukweza owo! nte Kachoo, chepo namukweza, tombo chemuto owo! Abarojii kiketya, abaroji kiketya na aboraji kiketya, sande simburi, tomo chemuto owo.” (I am not circumcised, here I’m from Mariwey, daughter of Namukweza, I have agreed to take circumcision, pave way for me, and my surgeon is Sande Simbura) This song is sung by young girls intending to undergo FGM soon.

Although I was surprised when I heard this from these girls given the fact that FGM is now prohibited, I stood still, listened to the song, looked at the young girls, I wanted to speak back but an inner voice restrained me when I saw an old woman amongst them guiding them in dancing.

The looks on their faces left no doubt in my mind that these girls are determined to undergo FGM come next year because they are prepared.

This experience illustrates how many Sabiny are determined to take FGM next year despite President Museveni approving the law prohibiting the practice and describing FGM as crude, outdated and an infringement on the rights of the girl-child in April 2010.

In the villages of Kapsarur, Kireteyi, Riwo, Kaptererwo, Chesmat, Kameti, Tulem, Nyalit, Binyinyiny and Chesower amongst the people who are still stuck in the tradition, amongst the illiterate’s preparations are in full gear sending fears that the local people might never drop FGM.

Why the persistence

Traditionalists argue that FGM is apart of their culture that makes them distinct from other tribes. It initiates girls into womanhood, shapes the morality of women during marriage and above all that it is their livelihood as they are paid for mutilating the girls. Kokop Cherop, a traditional surgeon, says that circumcising girls is the only means of living she has got which enables her to educate her children. “I have been circumcising since the age of 20 and from this I have educated my children; it’s a means of survival. So when someone talks about ending it, I just laugh it off,” 67 year Cherop said.

According to the district leadership in Kween, the changing attitude of the people who are deeply rooted in the tradition and look at it as a source of income for sustaining their families.

Nelson Chelimo an elder from Kween and Former LCV for Kapchorwa said, “Sensitisation of the masses against FGM has not yielded enough results and even the law has not changed anything in our villages.” Chelimo’s fears are not unfounded. The traditional Sabiny have in the past resisted dropping FGM, which they urge is a practice that gives diginity to the traditional Sabiny woman.

Ignorance of the law

Bukwo district population officer and FGM researcher, Simon Alere says the biggest population living in the rural remote areas of Kabei, Bukwo parts of Suam, Chesower (Bukwo) and Kwanyiny, Benet, where the culture originated and where the people value the practice FGM so much have no information about the law.

Handeni in all out war against FGM

July 31, 2011
The Citizen Correspondent
George Sembony

The Community Development Department in Handeni District, has urged the media to give wide coverage to female genital mutilation (FGM) incidents in the area in a bid to speed up elimination of the practice.
The view was made by the area community development officer, Ms Rose Mtango, during an interview with The Citizen on the FGM situation in the district.

She acknowledged the importance of the media, saying the recent coverage made by journalists from the Tanga Press Club under the sponsorship of the Tanzania Media Fund, has had a deep effect on society.

“There is a state of shock or fear in Konje area in Handeni District where two girls and a two year-old girl were forced to undergo FGM by their parents after the journalists’ visit. We have not had similar incidents after the visit and coverage,” she said.

She added that residents of the area, mainly people of Iraq stock from Mbulu, said “if there has been other incidents, they occured secretely.” The official said it was becoming harder because most girls especially those who are in secondary schools, are forced to do it by being rounded up at midnight.

She said the fight against the practice in Handeni District needed a lot of punch from the stakeholders and the area was preparing a special campaign to educate the young generation on the dangers of the practice.

The Maasai people now seek to use the traditional rites to circumcise boys and girls clandestinely.

Handeni DC Seif Mpembenwe, said police acting on a tip off, recently ambushed an FGM party in the early hours of the morning.He said the government would maintain close follow-up on traditional ceremonies which can be used to hide FGM practices.

Monday, August 1, 2011

KENYA: Limited success for campaigns targeting FGM/C practitioners

August 1, 2011
IRIN Africa

August is when Nchoo Ngochila would normally be gearing up for the traditional female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) season in her Ilchamus community in Kenya's Rift Valley Province.

"I would introduce myself and market my skills to the parents, I would convince them to hire me when the mutilating season came," she told IRIN. "In a day I would cut an average of 10 girls in a village, and would operate in two villages each day."

Ngochila, once a well-respected FGM/C practitioner, charged about US$22 per girl, a healthy income by the standards of the minority Ilchamus community, which comprises just 40,000 people mainly dependent on subsistence agriculture and fishing in Lake Baringo.

"At heart, I felt the pain of watching girls weep as I cut them, but I needed money to pay school fees for my sons," she added.

This year, however, Ngochila will spend her time trying to convince her community the practice should be abandoned. About a year ago, a campaign by the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) urged FGM/C practitioners in the area to put down their razors and campaign for women's rights in their communities.

"I was invited for training in our village, they talked about the suffering a girl [experiences] while undergoing FGM, and the way the practice denied women their rights," she said. "I felt so guilty that I cancelled all the bookings I had for August last year; instead I went to the same parents and tried to convince them against FGM."

A hard sell

Of the 30 bookings she had already made in 2010, just two changed their minds about having their daughters cut.

Ngochila found herself on the wrong side of elders and other members of the Ilchamus community; when she tried to convince other practitioners to give up the trade, they accused her of trying to ruin their business.

Local officials estimate that more than 50 percent of Ilchamus girls and women have undergone FGM/C.

The campaign to dissuade traditional practitioners from cutting girls continues, and local women's leader Winnie Mengiri says 15 practitioners from Marighat Division and 20 from Mukutani Division - where many Ilchamus people live - claimed to have been reformed because of various campaigns.

Today, Nodasimi Parteneu, a friend of Ngochila's, struggles to make ends meet, but is determined not to return to performing FGM/C for money.

"At first I thought it was good that Nchoo had abandoned the practice - she was my main competitor - but I later reasoned her way and put down my razor," she said. "Sometimes I get nightmares as I recall how a girl died after she bled following FGM which I had done, but I know God will give me grace to forget those memories."

Alternative incomes

But Mengiri says the high income of the practitioners often means their positions within the community do not stay vacant for long.

"Younger women are now mutilating girls secretly; some people here are yet to embrace the new anti-FGM culture," she said.

Younger women are now mutilating girls secretly; some people here are yet to embrace the new anti-FGM cultureGender and children affairs permanent secretary James Nyikal, who recently officiated at the signing of a declaration to abandon FGM/C by Ilchamus practitioners, elders and community members, said the government intended to provide alternative sources of income to women who wished to leave the profession to discourage them from returning to it.

Ngochila now makes mandazi (pastry), which she sells in schools around her village. Her income has dropped significantly, and she now survives on just $1.10 per day; she is hoping to benefit from the government's women’s entrepreneur fund to expand her business.

Involving men

According to UNFPA gender programme officer Florence Gachanja, a campaign targeting Ilchamus elders to fight FGM/C has borne fruit, leading to the community's endorsement of the anti-FGM declaration.

"Elders are the gate-keepers of culture, if they order that a certain traditional practice should be abandoned, [the community follows]," she said.

UNFPA will also be including Ilchamus “moran”, young men, many of whom refuse to marry uncut women. "We will be having a campaign to... convince them [that] women are the same, cut or not cut," Gachanja added.

The Ilchamus practise a form of FGM/C known as clitoridectomy, the removal of all or part of the clitoris. An estimated 32 percent of women in the Rift Valley Province have undergone the procedure, according to the 2009 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey.

Education, law

Area chief Francis Ole Kaprich says the education of Ilchamus girls will likely have the greatest impact on reducing the prevalence of the practice.

"I am sure this will play a big role in reducing FGM, but there is a need for more campaigns, sensitization and [vigilance] by law keepers if the Ilchamus [are to] abandon FGM completely," he said.

Although criminalizing FGM/C does not seem to have had much impact on the practice, Ole Kaprich said he would be enforcing the law in his own community.

"I know the majority will be doing it in secret, but I will make sure those caught will face the wrath of the law," he said. "We are also sensitizing girls... soon, mutilators will have no one to cut."

She became lame after circumcision

July 30, 2011
Daily Monitor
Steven Ariong

Not very far from Kapchorwa town, 53-year-old Judith Yamangusho gently removes her beans from the pods. Looking at her sitting on a stool, it is easy to imagine that she is in good health. Not until you see her wheelchair just a few metres away do you realise that she is in fact paralysed. However, for all her aliments, she is still a lucky woman, for three of her sisters passed away due to the very cause of her condition. Before the break of dawn, when she was 20, Yamangusho and her sisters were taken to a bush a distance from their home in Tabakon village Kapteret Sub County in Kapchorwa district and circumcised. Uncomfortably, she narrated that the surgeon used the same knife to cut them, then stitched them with thorns and applied local medicine on their wounds. “Our legs were all tied up for days for the wounds to recover,” she said. Only this mother of six children survived the ordeal, her sisters died shortly after. Yamangusho bled a lot after the circumcision and later dropped out of school(primary seven) because of the pain. When she finally recovered, she got married and was seemingly leading a happy life until child birth. “After delivering my last born, I started experiencing back pains and after the back pain my waist got paralysed to date,” she narrated. Her husband Steven Nakitari remains supportive of his wife, having been enlightened about the evils of the practice by the different Non-governmental organisations trying to curb the female Genital mutilation in the Sebei community.

Yamangusho only wishes that the war against FGM was decades earlier. “I wouldn’t have accepted it had I known its negative effects. I was not forced. I accepted after my parents told me to go since that was what all families were doing,” she said. However, she does not blame her parents. “They could do nothing because they had culture at heart but when the inter African Committee Uganda (IACU) an NGO based in Kapchorwa and Reproductive, Educative and community health (REACH) started preaching against the practice and its effects, that is when our parents realised that the practice was not good, but they could not do much,” she said.

Yamangusho’s only prayer is that her community realises the dangers of the practice and stops. “They should look at the way I’m now. I didn’t want to be like this, but because of that kind of culture, I have been forced to be like this,” she said sadly.