In December a wave of cultural festival of circumcision rite sweep every corner of Kuria region of Migori County.
The pulsating beats of the iritingo players echo through the valleys and ridges of Kegonga village in Kuria east, attracting curious crowds who follow them to the streets of Kegonga town.
And like the pied Piper of Hamelin, the musicians lead a gang of young boys and girls draped in traditional attire as the enthusiastic crowds in tow dance feverishly to the infectious beats.
Such celebratory jigs reigning among the four Kuria clans of the Abanyabasi, Abairege, Bagumbe and Bakira normally follows a massive cut of all teenage girls when they are deemed fit to be ushered to adulthood.
Although the Kenya government has banned circumcision of girls terming it dangerous to the health of woman, members of the Kuria community have continued to subject their daughters, some as young as 9 years, to the rite with the help of their traditional circumcisers.
One such traditional circumciser is 80-year-old Mama Paulina Robi who is now languishing in Jail for participating in the illegal practice commonly referred to as female genital mutilation (FGM).
“I had performed the traditional surgery for 11 years before I was arrested in 2009 for failing to heed the ban on the practice by the government,” she told KNA at the Migori GK Prison this week.
It was during the peak of the festival and she had already operated on more than 100 girls and boys on equal measure when things turned red on her.
“That morning I saw my chief and team of police officers approach us as I operated on the last lot of my customers and before we could run away, I and my helpers were apprehended and later bundled into a police vehicle that took us to Kehancha police station,” she narrated.
Within a month, Robi was taken to court, handed a 7 year-jail term and sent to Migori GK prisons for confinement for the offence that the anti-FGM crusaders say is retrogressive and harmful to women.
Although Robi, a mother of six believes that stopping the tradition is against the wishes of the Kuria gods “Iresa” the pains she has gone through while in prison has taught her a lesson.
She has apparently consequently changed her attitude towards the tradition.
“Never again in my life will I participate in the game of mutilating God’s work. I have closed shop. I will look for an alternative way of livelihood when my time comes to bid this place good-bye,” she told this reporter.
The oldest prisoner at the facility who hopes to earn her freedom in November 2018, however, pleads to President Kenyatta to have her released even before the scheduled time so she can go home and start a new life with her family.
“It has been my prayer all through that one day my President will pardon me for the sins I committed and leave this place to re-unite with my aging family back at home,” she said with a tinge of hope visibly whirling on her face.
She was however bitter with members of the press whom she said had since her confinement at the facility taken her pictures and appeals for freedom to the president but nothing good has come her way.
“This is the last time I am talking to you. Do not come back to bother me with those cameras if I continue to stay in this place,” she told our camera man who was busy taking her photos.
Officer in-charge of the women’s prison Chief Inspector Damaris Ombaso described mama Robi as a disciplined prisoner for the period she has been with her at the facility.
“It is true she has confessed to me that she will not engage again in the out-lawed traditional practice and that she will seek for help to do other things to live a normal life,” said Ombaso.
By George Agimba