Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is one of the harmful cultural practices that has been practiced for ages in many African countries including leading Sub Saharan countries like Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa. Although, it has been highly discouraged and dismissed in these countries and the international community at large as being an unhealthy traditional practice inflicted on young girls between infancy and the age of 15 years, there have been instances of reported cases from communities across Kenya and Africa as a continent still in the practice of this obscure traditional ritual.

It is disappointing and sickening that a few days ago, a highly qualified Kenyan doctor took a petition to one of the Kenyan High Courts to seek legalization of the pathetic act, which is a violation of human rights deeply rooted in outdated cultural beliefs and perceptions.

According to Kenya’s widely read newspaper Daily Nation Dr Tatu Kamau filed a controversial petition seeking legalization of FGM claiming that African women were being “harassed” and mistreated for undergoing the mutilation act and that the outlawing of female circumcision is against the culture of many African communities and calls for a review of the ban and a possible uplifting of it. Dr Kamau stresses that the dangerous practice is “just” a label given to the loyal Africans who uphold the traditional morals and values by those who do not understand its meaning and that the practice was part of the African cultural practices before the advent of colonialism thus should not be criminalized.

“I think that even for the decision of female circumcision, a woman can make that decision. And once she has made that decision, she should be able to access the best medical care to have it done.” Kamau told Kenya Television News (KTN)

In countries where FGM is practiced, it is believed to be beneficial in a couple of ways giving a reason for its conduction. It is believed to be a means of controlling women’s libido in the desire to curb promiscuity. This is made possible because the sexual most sensitive part i.e. clitoris responsible for sex urge and the strong drive for intercourse is cut and removed from the reproductive system. It also ensures that virginity is maintained by the teenagers before marriage and fidelity afterwards, a virtue that is highly upheld within many African communities. It is also a key practice for African women who are being initiated into womanhood which happens to be an important and integral part of a community cultural heritage.

Although FGM is part of many African societies cultural traditions and practices, it can never be a safe cultural practice because of its serious and harmful consequences. Advocating for it in any way to be legalized even through the use of specialized health medics and personnel is a violation of human rights and a huge risk for life from a public health perspective.

Photo: Newton Graffiti, Flickr

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