The importance and influence of culture in our day to day lives cannot be gainsaid. It is said that we are products of the manner in which we were socialized. Drafters of the Constitution of Kenya 2010 were alive to this fact and such, went ahead to recognise our diversity and culture as Kenyans though with a caveat that, cultures and practises that are unacceptable to law and morality are an exception. It is against this background that retrogressive practises such as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) have persisted despite consulted efforts to prohibit and outlaw its use. A selected group of communities still consider the practise a right of passage. For instance, according to the Maasai, a girl is considered a woman immediately after undergoing the cut.
In 2011, Prohibition of Genital Mutilation Act was enacted by parliament. The act outlawed the practice, aiding and abetting, use of derogatory terms towards those who have not undergone the cut, and sanctions for non-compliance. Despite the existence of a legal framework, the practice still persists. The persistence owes much to the attitude, lack of awareness as to the danger that is posed by the practice, and warped definition of a value system.
While the legal framework comprehensively prohibits the practice, lack of a model to deal with traumatic effects of the practice is a huge gap. Women who have undergone the cut have told tales of horrific experiences during childbirth, psychological wounds the cut left, and failure to sustain marriage on account of their inability to consummate the same. Worse still is the lack of a coherent support system for survivors across the board. Available support system mechanisms are uncoordinated as they are ad hoc, considering most of them are supported by civil society organisations whose financing is short term as it is sectoral centred.
While the above paints a picture of all doom and gloom, opportunities abound nonetheless. For starters, the internet is a key tool of messaging through creating counter narratives, besides creating a platform where survivors can tell their stories for purposes of creating awareness. In addition, technology provides a platform to hold webinars, chat spaces, post e-shots, besides creating jobs.
The upshot of the proposed initiatives is to eventually have a country that is FGM free, whereof young girls can grow with a free conscious to express themselves. It therefore behoves on all and sundry to make this a reality. Important though, is the individual effort towards eradicating this menace.