I echo the leader of majority in the parliament Hon. Aden Duale that Female Genital Mutilation [F.G.M] is a national menace just as other calamity including HIV/AIDS and insecurity.
He added that those encouraging FGM are as bad as poachers and most of all Alshabaabs.
This comes barely a week after the Masais women from Narok County ganged up in one voice in an effort to legalize it as a passage of rite in their community.
Worst of all those in the fore front were the same women who underwent the same horrifying experience but are so heartless to let their own children go through the same cruelty.
As the most Masais would say, circumcision is a way to ensure marriage because Masai men reject women who are uncut not knowing circumcision can spread HIV/AIDS among other diseases
“Cutting girls is something our people have done for hundreds of years,” Nashiru, the senior FGM ‘surgeon’ in the Masai community of Ol Donyo Nyokie who believes in the virtues of FGM. “No one can convince us that it is wrong.”
The women believe that an uncut woman has sexual feelings for every man she comes across, and is likely to stray from her marriage. In fact, they see FGM as a tool to curb the spread of HIV/AIDS in their community.
“When you cut a girl, you know she will remain pure until she gets married, and that after marriage, she will be faithful,” Nashiru explained. “But when you leave a girl uncut, she sleeps with any man and brings the disease into the community.”
Many deaths have been reported during the process but still they would not soften their heart.
Worst of all when the oldest girl comes of age, her parents might have all her younger sisters cut to save the cost of having several ceremonies not even considering their age.
Pateli, an ardent anti-FGM campaigner, painfully narrated how she was forced to circumcise her own daughter when the community threatened to ostracize her and her family. “I had hardened, but my girl was under so much pressure from her peers and elderly women that she eventually begged me to take her for the procedure,” Pateli recounted.
The young men in the community, known as ‘Moran’, or warriors, strongly believe that FGM is a useful practice that keeps women chaste. “I am married to a woman who is cut, and will be cutting my daughter when the time comes,” Kapande ole Saitoti, an Ol Donyo Nyokie Moran once said. “You cannot claim to be a Masai man or woman if you are not circumcised.”
In fact, the girls in the community reported that men were the biggest hindrance to the fight against FGM, because they continued to reject women who were uncut.
Myths explains the origin of female circumcision in the story of Naipei, a young girl who had intercourse with the enemy of her family, and whose punishment came in the form of circumcision, a decision her family took to prevent her from feeling the urges that had led her to commit the crime.
Since that day, in a bid to protect their honor and the honor of the Masai society, all Masai girls who reach adolescence have been circumcised. The aim of FGM is therefore to limit the sexual desire and promiscuity of girls.
The ceremony of FGM marks the coming of age of a girl; she sheds the last vestiges of childhood and joins the league of womankind. It is traditionally performed between the ages of 12 and 14 and is part of the traditional rites of passage for girls, in order for them to be considered adults in their community. A 2005 survey of the Masai community in Ol Donyo Nyokie (population: 665), found that 100 percent of girls above the age of 15 had undergone FGM.
Following the ceremony there is a period of seclusion, during which girls are educated about their rights and duties as women – they learn how to prepare food, take care of a home and children, and how to look after their future husbands. Once this period is over, a girl is considered an honorable woman and is free to marry even most being under 18years of age.
The importance of this practice among the Masai is considerable. FGM is perceived as bringing honor to a girl and to her family; by making her eligible for marriage it raises the status of her family in the eyes of society. The Maasai have held to the custom in the face of widespread criticism by Kenyan society and the international community and despite criminalization of the practice by the Kenyan government in 2002.
The vast majority, 85%, of genital mutilations performed in Africa consist of clitoridectomy
Many educated Masai men and women still favor the practice of FGM, not because they are uninformed about the risks involved, but for fear of the social repercussions, should they reject the custom. An uncircumcised woman remains a girl in the eyes of the community, however much education she may have, or whatever status she may attain in the outside world. For a woman who refuses to be circumcised, the risk of isolation is great, the chances of finding a Masai spouse are reduced to almost nil, and her status in society will always be that of a child.
The FGM ceremony takes place once a year and brings together all girls who come of age during that year. It is a large community event, marked by joyful revelry and feasting. A traditional circumciser, usually an elderly woman with great experience, performs the actual procedure. All the girls are circumcised on the same day and, until recent times, with the same instrument, usually a sharp knife known as an “ormurunya”. A paste made from cow dung and milk fat is applied to stop bleeding. The end of the period of seclusion is also marked by celebrations officially welcoming the girls into womanhood.
The Masai practice type-1 FGM, also known as a clitoridectomy, which involves the removal of the clitoral hood and all or part of the clitoris. Physical effects of the clitoridectomy include:
– reduced sexual desire
– bleeding, often severe enough to cause death
– infection, particularly due to poor sanitary conditions
– risk of HIV transmission due to sharing of knives
– complications during childbirth, often leading to stillbirths
Despite their firm hold on their culture, certain aspects of FGM have begun to change. In the era of HIV/AIDS, the Masai are aware of the risks involved in using the same knife for several procedures and, more often than not, today each individual is circumcised using a different blade. Studies by the non-governmental organization, Maendeleo Ya Wanawake (MYWO), show that only 14 percent of circumcisers still use the same knife for several girls.
This change may be slight, but observers and campaigners consider that it nevertheless displays openness among the Maasai to the idea that aspects of their traditional culture can be altered for the better.
One of the main approaches used by agencies trying to address the widespread practice of FGM is the introduction of alternative rites that are still acceptable and relevant to communities and allow girls to have a coming of age ceremony, but exclude cutting of the girl’s genitalia. MYWO and the Programme for Appropriate Technology in Health spearheaded a series of alternative rites ceremonies across Kenya in 1996, and have continued to hold them annually since. In these alternative ceremonies, girls are still educated about their role as women in society, but receive more relevant instruction, such as lessons about reproductive health and the importance of formal education.
FGM is illegal in Kenya, but the law is rarely applied against practitioners or parents who make their children undergo it. The Masai are a close-knit community who live largely by their own rules, and have resisted modernization. It is this adherence to their own traditions that makes the eradication of FGM among the Masai such an uphill task for those seeking to end the practice.
The Anti- FGM campaign Chairlady Linah Jebii Kilimo have urged the women in the region to look for other ways and the government is more keen now and those sill practicing the vice will be treated as offenders.
Its high time that the government takes it role in curbing this menace and come up with proper measures to ensure that Masai girls are well protected and prevent all the injustices and complications that arise from the cut some which are life time and spoils the girls entire life.
When all is said and done, FGM will still remain illegal in Kenya and its a shame seeing Masai women joining and conducting demonstrations challenging the government to legalize such a heartbreaking life issue.
It has been noted with great concern that men from Tanzania are taking advantage of the issue and are marrying the circumcised girls from Kenya hence encouraging FGM.
The parents are the only one left smiling after the great bride price that they get from those seeking their daughters hand in marriage.