Failure by chiefs and their assistants to enforce the law that forbids Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in the country is to blame for the continued practice of the harmful cultural practice.
Speaking on Wednesday during the International Day on Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation held at a Garissa hotel, elected leaders who included Ijara MP, Sophia Abdinoor, Garissa Nominated Senator, Falhadho Iman and her Marsabit counterpart, Naomi Waqo not only called for the empowerment of the administrators but also protection of those who are enforcing the law from intimidation and threats from the community they serve.
A study conducted by UNICEF in 2017 on project locations in Garissa and Wajir, revealed that 96 percent of the Somali girls and women had undergone FGM. In Kenya the prevalence of FGM among Somalis is 94 percent and is the highest in Kenya.
Sophia expressed regret that despite the far reaching negative implications for the emotional well-being of girls and women, the community continues to embrace the harmful cultural practice.
“FGM is a violation of the rights of women and girls as it infringes on their right to privacy, dignity besides causing pain and harm,” Sophia said.
Sophia urged young mothers and girls to rise up and say no to FGM because ‘they are the ones who suffer and who feel the pinch’.
On her part Senator Falhadho said she will be tabling a bill in the senate to compel the Ministry of Health in collaboration with the county governments to establish and adequately equip sexual and gender based violence care units in all public health facilities.
The bill will also provide for the treatment and counseling services to victims of sexual and gender based violence free of charge in all public health facilities.
It will also put in place coordination mechanisms between health facilities and other agencies involved in addressing sexual and gender based violence.
“Through this and many other efforts we are going to scale the fight against FGM to new heights. Let us all remain united and focused to end this retrogressive cultural practice,” she said.
On her part, Senator Naomi called on their elected male counterparts, opinion leaders, elders and clerics to support the war on FGM, noting that they cannot be left out.
“This is a collective responsibility and no section of the community should be left out,” she said.
The Constitution of Kenya 2010 guarantees every child to be protected from abuse, neglect, harmful cultural practices and all forms of violence, inhumane treatment and punishment and hazardous or exploitative labour.
According to one administrator who requested anonymity, ending FGM in the region remains a tall order as those who are recommended by the community find it difficult to act against their wishes.
The national theme for this year’s day of zero tolerance on FGM is Ending FGM is my responsibility’. It calls for collective effort by communities including leaders, government and development partners to work together to address this harmful practice.
By Jacob Songok