Update to KEN35138.E of 2 August 2000 regarding the prevalence of female genital mutilation (FGM) in the Kikuyu ethnic group; age at which practised; consequences of refusal for grandparents; availability of state protection [KEN40609.E]

Recent statistical information regarding the prevalence of female genital mutilation (FGM) among the Kikuyu ethnic group could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate. Sources consulted regarding the prevalence of FGM in Kenya continue to draw on the Kenya Demographic and Health Survey 1998 (PANA 1 July 2002; US 1 June 2001; The Nation 21 Dec. 2001; BBC 12 Dec. 2001).

Reports of the Kikuyu-dominated sect, Mungiki, continuing to threaten women to either submit willingly or be "forcibly" circumcised were found among sources consulted (IRIN 25 Apr. 2002; EAS 23 Apr. 2002). The sect considers female circumcision to be an ethnic Kikuyu tradition for women between the ages of 13 and 65 (IRIN 25 Apr. 2002). According to the East African Standard (EAS) of 23 April 2002, government officials ordered "a crackdown" on the Mungiki members in parts of Kiambu district responsible for writing and distributing leaflets that threatened women to undergo circumcision.

Prior to the government's response to the threats made by some members of the Mungiki, parliament had passed the Children's Bill on 29 November 2001 which included measures that ban the practice of FGM for girls under the age of 17 (IRIN 25 Jan. 2002). The Bill criminalises the practice of FGM and imposes a one-year jail term, a fine of Sh 50,000 [valued at CDN$1,004 as of 6 December 2001 (Oanda 16 Dec. 2002)] or both if convicted (EAS 6 Dec. 2001). President Daniel Arap Moi reportedly stated that "'[a]nyone found circumcising a girl of 16 will go straight to jail'" and that "'for girls above the age of 16 years, it is their choice to be circumcised or not. Should they not want to be circumcised, they shall also be protected by the new law'" (BBC 12 Dec. 2001).

Organizations and individuals active in the field of women's health and human rights have warned that, although the new Bill is a positive step towards reducing the practice of FGM, it must be accompanied by a program of public education and advocacy (EAS 26 July 2002; PANA 25 July 2002; ibid. 1 July 2002). "Gender sensitive organisations are calling on the government to integrate anti-female genital mutilation literature in the training curriculum of police officers, lawyers, health personnel and administrators" and to support initiatives by groups such as the Family Planning Association of Kenya, Fawe, Maendeleo ya Wanawake (MYWO), and Northern Aid (EAS 26 July 2002).

By early 2002, groups such as MYWO, a Kenyan national women's group, were arguing that despite the enactment of the 2001 Children's Bill, FGM is still being carried out in many Kenyan communities and that attitudes towards the practice in much of rural Kenya are slow to change (IRIN 25 Jan. 2002, ibid. 8 Mar. 2002). Rosemary Moraa, programme manager in charge of harmful practices at MYWO, reportedly stated that "'[t]he culture of circumcising women is entrenched among most women and young girls living in rural Kenya where many people still highly value female circumcision despite efforts by the government, churches and civic groups to stamp out the practice" (ibid. 25 Jan. 2002).

In addition, David Koros, a senior researcher with the Kenyan human rights lobby group, Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (CHRD), reportedly blamed legislators and civic leaders for inadvertently contributing to the escalation of the practice of FGM by not speaking out against the practice for fear of losing votes during elections (PANA 25 July 2002).

As recently as December 2002, reports of FGM continuing in areas such as the Nyamira District, where the practice is "rampant," were found among the sources consulted (EAS 11 Dec. 2002). However, other than the government's efforts to target Mungiki members who distributed leaflets ordering women to undergo the ritual, reports of police action against FGM perpetrators including arrests or fines imposed on individuals performing FGM since the Children's Bill became law, could not be found among the sources consulted.

For information on safe houses in Kenya that protect girls and women seeking refuge from FGM, please consult KEN39320.E of 21 October 2002. For information on a program called Promotion of Initiatives to Overcome Female Genital Mutilation (PIOFGM) and similar programs that seek to raise awareness of the harmful effects of FGM and promote an alternative rite of passage for girls into womanhood please consult KEN39319.E of 18 October 2002.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

References


BBC News. 12 December 2001. "Kenya Bans FGM Among Young." http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/1706140.stm [Accessed 12 Dec. 2002]

East African Standard (EAS). 11 December 2002. "FGM Continues Despite Seminars." http://allafrica.com/stories/printable/200212110471.html [Accessed 13 Dec. 2002]

_____. 26 July 2002. "Kenya: Containing a Debasing Tradition." (Africa News/NEXIS)

_____. 23 April 2002. "Get Circumcised, Mungiki Sect Tells Women." http://www.rickross.com/reference/mungiki/mungiki15.html [Accessed 12 Dec. 2002]

_____. 6 December 2001. Francis Openda. "Children Bill Outlaws FGM, Calls for Free Basic Learning." http://allafrica.com/stories/printable/200112060372.html [Accessed 12 Dec. 2002]

Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN). 25 April 2002. "Kenya: Rights Activists Decry Mungiki Circumcision Threat." (Africa News/NEXIS)

_____. 8 March 2002. "East Africa: Special Report on Violence Against Women." http://www/irinnews.org/print.asp?ReportID=24161 [Accessed 3 Dec. 2002]

_____. 25 January 2002. "Kenya: Focus on Female Genital Mutilation." (Africa News/NEXIS)

The Nation. 21 December 2001. Mugumo Munene. "Challenges Abound Over Ban on FGM." http://allafrica.com/stories/printable/200112200466.html [Accessed 12 Dec. 2002]

Oanda. 16 December 2002. "FXConverter - 164 Currency Converter Results." http://www.oanda.com/convert/classic [Accessed 16 Dec. 2002]

Panafrican News Agency (PANA). 25 July 2002. "Rights Lobby Faults Kenyan Politicians Over Persistence of FGM." (Global News Wire - Asia Africa Intelligence Wire/NEXIS)

_____. 1 July 2002. Shirley Odongo. "African Governments Accused of Inaction to Stop FGM." (Global News Wire - Asia Africa Intelligence Wire/NEXIS)

United States (US). 1 June 2001. US Department of State. "Kenya: Report on Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) or Female Genital Cutting (FGC)." http://www.state.gov/g/wi/rls/rep/crfgm/10103pf.htm [Accessed 3 Dec. 2002]

Additional Sources Consulted


IRB Databases

NEXIS

Internet sites, including:

Africa Action

Africa Online

Amnesty International (AI)

East African Standard

Human Rights Watch (HRW)

Save the Children - Canada

United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM)

United Nations Development Program (UNDP)

Women's Human Rights Net

Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF)

Women's International Network News (WIN)

World Health Organization (WHO)

World News Connection (WNC)

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