Like most African countries, Kenya’s High Court has just upheld the ban on female genital mutilation, which had been outlawed by the East African country in 2011.
Considered in the country as an important step in the life of a young girl, excision, which is an ancestral practice, is now prohibited in Kenya. This decision was confirmed by the High Court of Kenya, even though female circumcision has been banned in the country since 2011. The court’s decision came after Tatu Kamau, a health professional, challenged the legality of the ban under the Female Genital Mutilation Act.
Her efforts to legalise the age-old practice were rejected by the High Court judges who found her application « lacking in merit ». « Based on the medical and anecdotal evidence presented by the defendants, we find that the limitation of this rite is reasonable in an open and democratic society based on the dignity of women. This is our decision, » said Ms Lydia Achode, Senior Judge of the High Court of Kenya.
Although female genital mutilation (FGM) is punishable by a fine of US$2,000 (FCFA 1.1 million) and three years’ imprisonment in Kenya, some communities still consider it a rite of passage. « Today’s verdict is really a good day for women’s rights in Kenya, » said Felister Gitongam, a programme officer at Equality Now.
Indeed, despite the Kenyan government’s efforts to end female genital mutilation, Kenya’s indigenous and pastoral nomadic communities have struggled to embrace the alternatives, often proposed by local NGOs, to mark the transition of young girls to female status.
Described as a violation of the fundamental rights of girls and women by the World Health Organisation, the fact remains that nearly 200 million women worldwide have been cut in some 30 countries, mainly in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.