By Ann Wambui
No word of affirmative action on the way forward regarding the death of a 14-year-old girl who succumbed to Female Genital Mutilation in Igembe Central, Meru County has been updated since the matter was raised by a youth and PS Ministry of Public Service Youth and Gender Affairs Safina Kwekwe gave word to have the case looked into. Meanwhile, online uproar from activists is still on going with the #FGMkilledJelida that started last week on February 5 2019 during the second National Female Genital Conference held at Maasai Mara University in Narok county.
PS Kwekwe addressed the matter promising that the case will be looked into and that she would get the burial she deserves. However, no formal communication has been received days after the conference came to an end which is raising more questions as to why the silence.
The teenager died after undergoing FGM in December 2018 and has not been buried yet since her family members are on the run and no one is present to claim her body at the city mortuary. As published by Daily Nation, a resident pastor Julius Gitari, said that the parents had sought a burial permit from the area chief before reports spread that she had been mutilated.
This case is one among many that sometimes go unreported and no punishment is taken against the perpetrators violating the law stipulated by Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act 2011that “prohibits the practice of female genital mutilation, to safeguard against violation of a person’s mental or physical integrity through the practice of female genital mutilation and for connected purposes.”
Photo credit; Dennis Njoroge, Mtoto News
The girl’s case was raised during the Second National FGM Conference that begun on 4th January 2019, officially opened by Cabinet Secretary Ministry of Public service, Youth and Gender Affairs Prof. Margaret Kobia at Maasai Mara University and was also graced by other dignitaries from the County Government of Narok. The second day of the conference had a range of panel discussions on the role of community partnerships and networks, role of policy makers in ending FGM, role of prosecution and the law in ending FGM in Kenya and engaging men, boys and youth in the campaign to end FGM.
The conference with the theme; “Ending FGM is my responsibility”, has seen participants, partners, stakeholder and community members gather to look at how far the fight against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) has come so far in Kenya especially the hot-spot areas, even as other town have emerged.
On discussion; the role of policy makers in ending FGM even as the Kenyan government has progressively put in place policies prohibiting FGM. The Children’s Act of 2001 has since its establishment empowered courts to punish those who facilitate or practice FGM. This act led to a comprehensive law, Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act (2011) that states and explains more stiff punishment for perpetrators.
From the discussions, police officers and prosecutors are having challenges in processing cases of perpetrators of FGM in the areas. This arises from the issue of corruption such that someone who knows someone of authority is not charged. Another would be that there is lack of enough evidence to charge before court.
There is need to document punishment of perpetrators to serve as example to those who put girls and women at the risk of death and contraction of diseases. This move will serve as a firm stand by the national government to fight and completely eradicate cutting of girls and women.
According to Kenya Demographics and Health Survey (KDHS), there is acknowledgement of the progress in overall prevalence in Kenya among girls and women aged between 15-49 has decreased from 27.1% (2008/2019) to 21% in 2014. For these statistics to be followed up, there is need to have county data that shows the prevalence rate of specific areas so that resources are shared appropriately.
While the fight is still on, it is very important to engage boys and men in the campaign to end mutilation of girls and women. As the 2019 theme stands, that it is a collective responsibility to end female genital mutilation, it is acknowledged that the dangerous culture is male dominated intending to maintain male dominion over females. Thus the importance in involving males as they play a pivotal point in either ending or maintaining this “norm”. As resolved in the first FGM conference in 2018, the youth network campaign against FGM needs to be strengthened as the youth are committing to amplify the voices of the youth in Kenya.
The role of community partners and networks is to ensure that their voices make count in ensuring that they speak up when they see certain activities in the grassroots or even beyond the borders considering the upcoming trends. The media also plays a key role as they shape perceptions and influence public opinion.
Boys and men are being engaged in the campaign to end FGM as men are the head of the family and they are believed to hold the community together. Some of the reasons as stated by Founder of Men End FGM Tony Mwebia, is that with young boys and girls are feeling pressured in the society to uphold cultural norms, yet they have not been educated or informed about the risks.
This was followed by a celebration to mark International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation that was officially marked on February 6, 2003 to continue the fight against FGM through a range of activities in addition to the observance.
According to findings by United Nations, FGM is declining in some countries although if not properly monitored and done with as soon as possible especially in the hot spot countries and areas, 68 million girls are at risk of undergoing through FGM between 2015-2030.
All photos credits to Jeremiah Kipainoi
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