OVER 150 GIRLS SUBJECTED TO FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION (FGM) IN AND AROUND MARAKWET DISTRICT, KENYA, WHILE HUNDREDS MORE FLEE TO SHELTERS IN FEAR
EQUALITY NOW CONDEMNS MASS MUTILATIONS AND URGES KENYAN AUTHORITIES TO TAKE IMMEDIATE ACTION TO PROTECT GIRLS AND HOLD PERPETRATORS ACCOUNTABLE
Nairobi, Kenya - December is commonly known to be the season when a large number of genital mutilations of girls occur in Kenya. This year the numbers have been significantly higher than usual owing to a combination of reasons: the focus on elections by the media and other institutions, reluctance of male political leaders to speak out against FGM and the negligence of Kenyan authorities to enforce the law. Activists on the ground believe that parents are taking advantage of this situation to mutilate their daughters. Afraid that they may be circumcised when they return home during the holidays, hundreds of girls are fleeing to rescue centers from schools. As a result, the rescue centers have been filled to capacity.
International human rights organization Equality Now condemns the sudden surge in mass mutilations and the failure of authorities to enforce the law and protect girls from the cutting. Partners of Equality Now's Fund for Grassroots Activism to End FGM (FGM Fund) who are working in/near Marakwet district in Kenya have been overwhelmed with the cases they have received and have information that more girls are scheduled to be mutilated next week. A significant problem faced by activists is transportation and their inability to reach the villages where the FGM is expected to occur.
Elaborating on the political situation and isolation faced by activists in Marakwet, Hellen Toroitich from Marakwet Girls and Women Project says, "The provincial administration is not saying anything and we have been left alone. The male political aspirants are not in a position to help for fear of losing votes." Although Kenya passed a law prohibiting FGM in 2001, Kenyan authorities have been slow to implement the law. According to Ken Wafula from Center for Human Rights and Democracy, "There is a need to train chiefs and their assistants and equip them with relevant legal knowledge and materials like the Children Act, which they don't have."
According to a 1996 study from WHO, the prevalence rate of FGM in Kenya is 50%. While the practice seems to be decreasing in urban areas it continues to be a common occurrence in rural areas. Jessica Neuwirth, President of Equality Now, said, "Authorities in Marakwet must take strong and immediate action against perpetrators and would-be perpetrators. They need to send parents and circumcisers a loud and clear message that such blatant disregard for the law will not be tolerated. Legal action is needed to ensure that those who have cut the girls are held accountable while those girls who have not yet been cut are effectively protected."
Female genital mutilation (FGM) is a harmful traditional practice that entails the cutting and/or removal of part or all of the external genitalia of girls and women. More than 130 million girls and women around the world are estimated to have undergone FGM. At least 2 million girls every year - 6,000 each day - are at risk of suffering FGM, a fundamental human rights violation.
Please call the Kenyan ambassador in your country and express your concern over the reports that mass female genital mutilation is underway in Marakwet district. Ask him/her to urge Kenyan authorities to take immediate action to protect girls in Markwet from genital mutilation, and to hold those who have have subjected girls to FGM accountable under the law. Call for public condemnation of FGM by the government, which should remind all citizens that FGM is illegal under Kenyan law and which should make clear the government's commitment to enforce the law and prosecute perpetrators. Visit http://www.statehousekenya.go.ke/ and click on "Kenya Missions" in the toolbar on the top to locate your country's Kenyan ambassador.
Equality Now, December 21, 2007