Global Health Justice

December 15, 2022

‘Every chemist has a backroom’: the rise of secret Female Genital Mutilation in Kenya

By Caroline Kimeu from NPR

In 2011, Kenya passed laws to decrease the rates of female genital mutilations (FGM), by imposing hefty fines on its practitioners, and increasing surveillance and enforcement. But the recent medicalization of FGM is posing a new challenge for the east African nation, which has a 15% medicalization rate: one of the highest in Africa.

In Kisii county, FGM medicalization is standard. Two out of three cases of female genital cutting are performed by health practitioners, in contrast to much of the country, where 70% of FGM cases are performed by traditional practitioners.

The services are in high demand over the December holidays, when the community traditionally perform the rite of passage. However, with medicalization, the practice has shifted from a group activity marked by public celebration to an individualized one. Rights groups say the trend has made it harder to monitor, and Unicef has termed medicalization “one of the greatest threats” to eliminating FGM.

“It is very hard to find out who is doing what,” says Esnahs Nyaramba, an anti-FGM campaigner who monitors and reports the practice. “As long as the mutilator and mutilatee are there, it’s a done deal.”

Nyaramba says that many parents take their girls for FGM under the cover of a different medical service. She uses insiders, such as nurses and gate guards, to get information on when the cuts are happening and works with police to stop it. Her organization, Onsembe, is part of a grassroots movement #FrontlineEndingFGM, that provides live updates on where and when FGM is happening. Organizers say it has made it easier to pressure local authorities into acting.


Read more of this article here.