Kenya: Enforce FGM and "child marriage" laws - Equality Now

Kenya: Enforce FGM and "child marriage" laws

6 FEBRUARY 2019 UPDATE: In 2011 Kenya passed a law that prohibited Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and imposed tough penalties on perpetrators and those abetting the practice. The law not only banned the practice in Kenya but also prohibited cross-border FGM and barred medical care givers from carrying out the practice. In addition, the law holds that consent cannot be cited as an excuse for conducting FGM. Since this legislation was passed the country has witnessed a decline in the number of girls who are cut, with law enforcers and other duty bearers working to end this practice. Kenya’s FGM prevalence currently stands at 21 percent having declined from 27 percent in 2008.

However, much more remains to be done.

Just like it is in Kenya, Uganda’s anti FGM law bans the practice without any exceptions. In Tanzania on the other hand, the law only prohibits FGM for girls below the age of 18. However, enforcement of the law in Kenya’s border points remains a challenge. The country is witnessing a growing trend in cross-border FGM where girls and women are taken to Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Somalia for the cut, as perpetrators attempt to beat the laws and systems that have been put in place to end FGM. This is a worrying trend.

On 4 to 5th February 2019, Kenya hosted the 2nd National Conference to End FGM, bringing together state and non-state actors Participants agreed to intensify the enforcement of the law while at the same time engaging all stakeholders so as to accelerate the abandonment of FGM. In addition, the Kenyan government announced that it was planning to conduct a national census and update the gender data sheet. This will give a clearer picture of the progress made in ending FGM since the anti FGM legislation was enacted.

At Equality Now, we are calling on Kenya to work closely with Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Somalia so as to end cross-border FGM. This can only be done if the perpetrators in any of these countries are held to account for their actions and if law enforcers collaborate their efforts.

FGM remains a big challenge for women and girls in the rural set up, where the practice is deeply rooted in culture and male patriarchy and even more so in the shared border points.

1 FEBRUARY 2018 UPDATE: We're witnessing troubling backsliding on progress to end FGM in Kenya. Starting on 6 February International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM, the Kenya Anti-FGM Board will hold the the 1st Annual End FGM Conference. Equality Now staffers will join representatives from the government, UN agencies, civil society, youth movements, the media and other legal professionals to to share our knowledge on the issue and collaborate on strategies to improve anti-FGM efforts. 

Equality Now has been monitoring multiple cases of Kenyan girls running away from their homes or avoiding going home from school during holidays to escape female genital mutilation (FGM) and child marriage, particularly during the August and December school holidays when mass mutilations are performed. The Pokot region, especially, has had a high number of reports of girls fleeing their homes or refusing to return home from school. Despite the existence of Kenyan laws against FGM and child marriage, it is clear that they are not being implemented in the region to protect girls.

  • Elizabeth from Churo village was barred from attending school by her parents who planned to subject her to FGM and marry her off. She found refuge with her aunt for a while and was attending school, but was forced to run away when her father tried to remove her from her aunt’s home at age 16. She walked for three days before arriving at a rescue center for girls. Her father came to the rescue center and tried to force her back home, but when the center’s management threatened him with police action, he left and did not return.
  • Alsine from Tangulbei village was pulled out of school by her parents at age 14 and subjected to FGM to ‘prepare her for marriage’. She ran away to her older sister’s home to escape, but her father forcibly removed her from her sister’s home and began marriage preparations. She managed to escape once more, and after spending two nights sleeping outdoors,  was directed to a rescue center for girls where she is once again attending.

Please join Equality Now and our Kenyan partners, the Women Rights Institute for Peace and the Tasaru Ntomonok Initiative, in calling on the national government of Kenya and the local government in Pokot to take urgent action in accordance with Kenya’s international, regional and domestic obligations to ensure that:

  • Immediate steps are taken to protect, and provide support and shelter to, girls escaping FGM and child marriage and to ensure that at-risk girls are not subjected to FGM at any time and in particular during the school holidays.
  • Laws against FGM and child marriage are effectively implemented with proper investigation and prosecution of violations.
  • All concerned national and local level authorities work together to put into place protective measures within at-risk communities to protect girls from both child marriage and FGM, and to ensure that they are able to continue their education.
  • Awareness-raising and education campaigns are conducted to change cultural perception and beliefs on FGM and child marriage and acknowledging the practices as human rights violations with harmful consequences.

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