Several cases of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) have been reported in many parts of the South Rift region. This is happening despite campaigns by various stakeholders to get rid of the practice.
Unlike in the past where girls were subjected to the cut at tender ages, females above 20 years old have become the target in a bid to beat the law protecting children’s rights.
Newly married women, some with children, are now targeted in what is meant to end stigmatisation.
Police have arrested at least 20 women who have been circumcised, nine caregivers and circumcisers in a crack-down in the last five days.
There are reports that several youths have been subjected to FGM in Bomet, Nakuru and Narok counties despite a government ban on the practice.
Records indicate that eight of those circumcised at Kipsegon village in Kapkesosio Location, Chepalungu constituency are aged between 21 and 24 years.
Chepalungu Sub County Police Commander Nelson Masai confirmed the arrests and said the suspects will be arraigned as the crackdown continues.
In Konoin constituency, 17 of the girls are said to undergone the cut at Chelemet village, while 15 others were saved by administrators in the region.
“The county has trained 40 children’s rights champions who have been instrumental sensitising residents on the dangers of clinging to retrogressive cultural practices that are harmful to girls,” said Ms Rose Chepkorir, the director for gender in Bomet County.
Ms Chepkorir said, “It is unfortunate that majority of those who have been circumcised are either married or are young mothers. They have been forced to undergo the rite in order to be accepted in a society where uncircumcised married women are looked down upon even by fellow women,”
She says that to mark the 16 days of activism against gender violence running from November 25 to December 10, 2019, the county will run a mentorship programme targeting school girls in Konoin, Bomet East, Bomet Central, Chepalungu and Sotik sub counties.
“There is an increase on the number of early pregnancies among school going girls in the county, thus the need to turn the tide around in the backdrop of campaign against FGM in the region,” said Bomet County Chief Officer in charge of gender Jane Sigilai.
The mentorship programme is expected to benefit more than 1,500 girls from 31 zones in the county. It also seeks to enhance the fight against gender based violence in a region where cases of rape and defilement are rampant.
Bomet County Commissioner Geoffrey Omoding said various programmes, including civic education, have been rolled out to fight FGM.
“Drug abuse, consumption of illicit brews, and adherence to archaic cultural practices by local communities has contributed to FGM and gender-based violence,” said Mr Omoding.
On Saturday, eight girls suspected to have been circumcised were arrested in Chebunyo. They are expected to be arraigned alongside four caregivers.
“Attempts by government officers, children, women and human rights activists to fight FGM have been hampered by the fact that most of those subjected to the rite are college going girls and newly married women,” said Ms Hellen Taplelei, a former nominated Member of the County Assembly.
Ms Taplelei said: “Some of those affected are being nursed by relatives in their homes. Some of them claim to be expectant and have been directed by hospitals to take bed rest while in reality, they are recovering from the cut.”
In the past, pregnant women who have not undergone FGM had their genitals mutilated against their wish by traditional midwives during delivery.
Narok South, Transmara and Kilgoris are the most affected zones in Narok County, while the tea estates and its environs in Kericho County, Kuresoi North and Kuresoi South in Nakuru are areas where girls are vulnerable to FGM.
Rift Valley Regional County Commissioner George Natembeya has directed administrators in the region to enforce the laws protecting girl child and ensure perpetrators are arrested and prosecuted.