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Kenyan campaigners sound alarm over medicalization of female cut

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- The medicalization of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is emerging as a major threat to ending the vice in Kenya, campaigners said on Tuesday during an event to mark the International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM.

Felister Gitonga, an expert on ending harmful practices at Equality Now said that medics and paramedics are effecting the cut as families of the victimized girls and women turn to hospitals in pretext of providing safer services than traditional practitioners.

“But the mental and physical effects (of the cut) are the same whether it is done in hospital or at home,” Gitonga told Xinhua.

Kenya is among the five countries in Africa with the highest rates of FGM performed by medical professionals, a 2017 research by Kenya’s Population Council together with partners indicates.

Sudan leads with 67 percent followed by Egypt at 38 percent and Kenya and Guinea come third with 15 percent each. Nigeria trails with 13 percent in terms of the cut done by doctor, nurse, midwife or other health care workers.

Worryingly too is the shifting of target to infant girls as service providers strive to escape from the consequences of the law notwithstanding the dangers they expose them to, she said.

She also identified politicization of anti-FGM campaigns, subverted FGM undertakings, vacation cutting and loopholes in implementation of laws prohibiting the cut as existing challenges to ending the vice in Kenya.

She said resistance from political leaders towards ending the vice hampers progressive change in cultural practices in some communities thereby encouraging continuation of FGM.

In other areas cutting the girls is done simultaneously with circumcision of boys making the exercise appear legal thereby diverting the attention of law enforcers from the criminal act committed in the background, she said.

On implementation of anti-FGM laws, Gitonga said the laws enforcers including the police and local administration have to be trained on the existing laws to be able to effectively apply them in preventing the vice and prosecuting the culprits.

She was emphatic of the urgency of sensitizing the medical professionals of their role in ending FGM. She said there was need for them to establish punitive mechanisms to restrain the health providers from taking part in the vice.

“They have to take a stand and develop measures that would ensure that those who take part in it are held accountable,” she said.

Alfred Ng’eno, an anti-FGM campaigner said reviewing anti-FGM laws to introduce stricter punishments would help reduce rates of the vice in the country.

“You will find a culprit arrested and a few days later, he is out having been granted cash bail of some little money and they continue with their normal activities of subjecting more and more girls and women to the cut,” Ng’eno said.

He said it was necessary to decentralize the anti-FGM campaigns to the grassroots in order to have a direct rather than an intermediary impact on the communities.

“We should have all-inclusive anti-FGM boards in the villages because that is where the culprits and victims or potential victims are,” he said.

“It is important to relentlessly educate communities on long and short-term effects of FGM since some continue to do it out of ignorance,” Ng’eno said.



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