Dignity and Honor Restored

Written by Joy Balusi

February 2, 2023

At least 200 million girls and women alive today have been circumcised in 31 countries (Female Genital Mutilation(FGM) – UNICEF data).

What is FGM?

Female genital mutilation (FGM) refers to all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injuries to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.

Most communities in the world practice FGM as a rite of passage. Some girls go through it willingly and others are forcefully cut, causing trauma that sometimes never end.

Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for health and well-being,” and this statement has been used to argue that FGM violates the right to health and bodily integrity.

In Kenya, the 2010 Constitution protects children and women from abuse, harmful cultural practices, and all forms of violence. The Government of Kenya has enacted legislation prohibiting FGM in the Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act, 2011, and the Children’s Act, 2022. It is an offense, with or without the victim’s consent to carry out the FGM and it is punishable by law. So essentially, it is banned in Kenya.

Voice to the Voiceless

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

From 17th to 20th Jan 2023, Bible Society of Kenya engaged 83 girls (12-19yrs) from the Kuria community, Migori County, some of whom have been forced to undergo FGM. Some, however, are run away schoolgirls who run before the act was done to them over the period November -December 2022.

During this period, four Kuria clans of Nyabasi, Bwirege, Bukira, and Bugumbe, both in Kenya and Tanzania, undertook female genital mutilation which saw the girls escape to rescue centers Komotobo, Tarang’anya Girls, Safe Engage Foundation, Gosenso, and Ravine rescue centers to avert the cut.

Through the BSK Trauma Healing programme, girls at Komotobo Mission Centre in Kuria East sub-county had a platform to share their pain, take it to Jesus at the cross, start healing, and build resilience for life moving forward.

In a community where the institution of elders is highly respected, saying no to the knife is taboo. The community believes that the elders hold mythical powers, and their word is the law. It is the elders who prescribe when circumcision is taking place and coordinate FGM. The parents are also proponents of this retarded practice that is so ingrained in the heart of this community.

Some of the reasons why FGM is practiced:

  1. It’s a rite of passage- The way to womanhood.
  2. Women should not be educated. Education is a priority for boys.
  3. Control girls’ sexuality by curbing sexual desires and making them faithful wives.
  4. It is a prerequisite for marriage.
  5. Parents of girls are keen to have their daughters undergo FGM to increase their dowry.
  6. Ignorance/lack of exposure/education.

The girls cut or run away are left with wounds that strip off their identity, human dignity and are exposed to increased risk of dropping out of school. Most of them grow up hating their parents and feeling unloved as the effects of the mutilation are entrenched in their hearts.

  • Risks of infections
  • Deprive of sexual pleasure
  • Childbirth complications
  • Severe bleeding that leads to death
  • Deprived education

As the girls narrate their horror stories, you cannot help but wonder how the government is helping such children. Unfortunately, the elected leaders and representatives of the people will not be anti-FGM lest they lose their favour with the community.

Since some girls fear being excommunicated and labelled which does not define them, they fall into the trap of this backward practice. We thank God however for the opportunity to speak life to such girls among many even as they question why bad things like FGM happen to them and cause so much suffering. Grateful to be part of restoring their dignity as they we affirmed by the real giver of identity, that they matter and are still loveable before God’s eyes.

The girls were exposed to practical examples of saying no to bad touch, sexuality, forgiving the perpetrators, taking the pain to Jesus, and rebuilding their lives. As they explored Joseph’s story of how God restored him even after going through suffering, the beautiful young girls were reassured, re-encouraged, and re-affirmed on God’s purpose for their lives was still good and valid.

Toward the end of the sessions, the girls appreciated the BS Kenya team for championing their course and reminding them they are still important to God and people. The fear though is what happens to them once they get back to their homes as they prepare for school reopening which is going on. Will they be accepted by their guardians? Will they be abducted, kidnapped, cut, and forced to be married?

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