Girls beat dad in court circumcision battle

News  Independent Online News (South Africa). Wednesday, 24 January 2001.


Court Prevents Circumcision in Kenya

Nairobi - A little-publicised fight in Kenya against female genital mutilation registered a landmark victory when two girls successfully obtained a court order restraining their father from having them forcibly circumcised.

Edna Jebet and Beatrice Jepkosgei achieved a first of sorts by taking their father to court in a move that baffled their Keiyo community, which views this rite of passage as a must, reports the United Nations news agency, IRIN.

The case came to light last December shortly before press reports that a school girl had died after being forcibly circumcised - along with eight married women - in Nandi District.

Maendeleo ya Wanawake, the largest women's group, argues that men are the greatest obstacles to the elimination of female genital mutilation in Kenya, since many prefer their women circumcised.

The organisation's chairperson, Zipporah Kittony, who is also a nominated MP, lauded the court's decision, saying that men derogatorily refer to uncircumcised women as overgrown babies, sometimes compelling even married women to undergo the operation to save face.

They also claim that uncircumcised women are promiscuous and cannot be satisfied by one man in a marriage, she added.

Arguments for the girls' case reminded the court that Kenya was a signatory to various human rights conventions, including the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women ( External link Cedaw) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child ( External link CRC), and that there was no reason why it should violate them with impunity.

The war against female genital mutilation had tended to push the practice underground until reports of accidental deaths gave new impetus to the fight to have it stopped.

Circumcision is still cherished among many communities in Kenya, notably the Kisii, Kipsigis, Nandi, Kuria, Keiyo and the Marakwet.

As many as 2 000 girls from the communities were reportedly circumcised in 2000 while 1 500 were circumcised the previous year.

The operation, which was previously the preserve of traditional surgeons, is now performed by paramedics at a cost of 500 Kenyan shillings (about R50).

Opponents say it is a violation of human rights. They argue that traditional surgeons whose patients die should be charged with murder. — IRIN

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