By Ann Wambui
11-year-old Jelida Gachuiri is likely to be buried on Saturday March 16, 2019 according to the information received so far. Jelida succumbed to Female Genital Mutilation in December 2018 in her home area Mwanika village in Igembe central, Meru county. The lass is said to have faced the knife with six of her cousins during that holiday, as it was also confirmed in a feature story #TragedyoftheCut on Citizen TV February 23, 2019.
In three days time, it will be exactly three months since Jelida was found lifeless in her parents home where she was recovering from Type 2 FGM wound. You may wonder why it took that long to organize a send-off. Truth is, her parents fled the home since for fear of being arrested by police and also because they believe her death was a bad omen considering the circumstances.
Activists have for months been pushing conversations online using #FGMKilledJelida asking for justice for this young girl who had no one to even claim her body that has been lying cold in the morgue. There is an FGM prohibition Act in the Kenyan constitution but the investigation process is long and tiring before and before conviction is done, other girls still go through the cut.
Meanwhile, a British court sentenced a mother to 11 years jail time for performing FGM on her three-year-old daughter in 2017 and added two years for indecent images and extreme pornography.
Justice Phillipa Whipple said the act was “a barbaric and sickening crime”. She added, “FGM has long been against the law and let’s be clear FGM is a form of child abuse… “It’s a barbaric practice and a serious crime. It’s an offence which targets women, particularly inflicted when they are young and vulnerable”.
According to The Guardian, the Ugandan-born UK-living mother and her Ghanaian partner were accused of circumcising their daughter during summer holiday of 2017, although her partner was cleared after trial but served his sentence in remand. Her former partner pleaded guilty to two charges of possessing of an indecent image of a child and two charges of possessing extreme images showing people having sex with a horse and snake.
In my opinion, going through the story, I would say that this girl was living with dangerous people considering the kind of things found in their house after a police search. This child was probably exposed to a lot, as the mother admitted to possessing indecent pictures of a child, publishing videos of sexual activity with a dog and a snake and possessing extreme pornographic images.
During the trial, the 37-year-old woman claimed that her daughter climbed up to get a biscuit and “fell on metal and it’s ripped her private parts”, which i think does not make any sense.
Now, going back to the situation in Kenya, even after Principal Secretary State Department of Gender Affairs Safina Kwekwe promised to have the case handled in February 2019, no communication has been received. Pleas to the police to find the family members who are said to have fled to Mombasa have been in vain as there has been no feedback until date. It is believed that the circumcisor is well known by the villagers but no one has come forward to tell.
Please do note that Part IV of the Prohibition of FGM Act criminalizes female genital mutilation… if FGM is carried out and causes death, the perpetrator will be liable to imprisonment for life.
You wonder how such an issue (FGM) can be addressed and banned permanently with actions starting with arresting and charging Gachuiri’s perpetrators. I often think that this is an issue that can be resolved although not quick but starting with prosecution would be a good place to start. Hastening investigations for FGM cases should be prime so that those practicing this harmful cultural practice lead by example.
In one of the panel discussions during the second national end fgm conference held in Narok February this year, there is a participant who said that at times “police arrest the girl being circumcised and taken away in that painful state she is in,” correct me if i am wrong but i have not seen a law stating this.
I feel like a girl coming forward to report or found during that period that she has been cut is evidence enough for a crime committed against her. Not arresting her because and putting her in a four-cornered room when she is pain! She needs medical help and support but more than that, this practice should be COMPLETELY done away with. We need to change how these laws have been put out. They should protect and not discriminate.
Part V of the Act states that; “The Government shall take necessary steps within its available resources to protect women and girls from female genital mutilation;” but i feel like girls at the risk of undergoing female circumcision are not being protected by the government as they should be.
As a country, we have gone steps forward in preventing girls from going through FGM but we are not there yet. Until Kenya becomes an FGM-free country, we shall fight for justice, for girls to stay in school, for more sensitization at the grass root level and educate both girls and boys on respect and equality for both genders.
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