FEMALE CIRCUMCISION AND KENYAN LAW: A CASE STUDY Michael A. Stanfield Bioethics Program Iowa State University
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Introduction Introductory Materials Activity Activity Schedule Interest Groups Maendeleo Ya Wanawake Organization (MYWO) Resource 1: Female Genital Mutilation in Kenya Resource 2: Alternative Rite to Female Circumcision Resource 3: Girls Flee Circumcision in Kenya Kenyan Government Representatives Resource 1: Female Genital Mutilation Cases Rise Resource 2: Minister Wants Tougher Anti-FGM Action Resource 3: Alarm over FGM in Private Clinics Resource 4: Murugi Proposes Life Term for FGM Culprits African Women are Free to Choose (AWA-FC) Resource 1: Statement by AWA-FC Individuals Opposed to Criminalization Resource 1: Excerpts from Female Circumcision: The Interplay Of Religion, Culture, and Gendeer in Kenya by Mary Wangila Resource 2: Kenya Shock at Mutilation Death Resource 3: Female Genital Cutting Among the Somali of Kenya and Management of its Complications Resource 4: Razor's Edge – The Controversy of Female Genital Mutilation Background Information Resource 1: Terms Resource 2: UN Convention on the Rights of the Child Resource 3: Act No.8 of 2001 – Children Act, Kenya Conclusion Discussion or Essay Questions for Students 2 3 3 4 6 8 10 12 13 15 17 19
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INTRODUCTION Female circumcision is the practice of ceremonially altering the appearance of a young girl or woman’s vagina using various types of genital cutting. The extent of circumcision practiced varies by geographical region. The procedures range from minimally invasive (pricking, slicing, or removal of the clitoral hood) to extremely invasive (excision of the entire body of the clitoris and all or most of the protruding genitalia, and nearly complete occlusion of the vaginal opening [infibulation]). Young girls and their families face a variety of traditional, social, religious, medical, and economic factors which influence the decision to obtain a circumcision. In recent times, controversy over the practice of female circumcision has led to denunciation and its rejection by many cultural groups and legal institutions. It remains, however, commonly practiced in Africa and parts of Asia where it is seen as a rite of passage and/or a religious obligation. In 1989, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child. This convention, which was opened for signature, ratification, and accession to all member states, and obtained force in 1990, highlights the obligations that government bodies have to secure certain rights for minor children in their constituency. The Republic of Kenya ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1990 and, in 2001, adopted their own legislation to fulfill those obligations. While the UN Convention does not expressly denounce female circumcision, the Kenyan Children Act of 2001 directly states in Section 14: Protection from Harmful Cultural Rites, etc: “No person shall subject a child to female circumcision, early marriage or other cultural rites, customs or traditional practices that are likely to negatively affect the child's life, health, social welfare, dignity or physical or psychological development.” In the approximately ten years since its adoption, controversy has surrounded the Children Act. The act prohibits underage girls from obtaining a circumcision, but adult female circumcision is still permitted. Many communities, particularly those in rural areas, continue to practice circumcision on minors, despite or in ignorance of the new law, and penalties for underage circumcision vary widely in enforcement and severity. Interested parties hold a multitude of positions on the topic of female circumcision, including those who support its criminalization and those who oppose it. There are also groups which find the Children Act insufficient or ineffective and propose a variety of alternatives. For the purposes of this...
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