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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.