Girl Forcibly Circumcised Without Her Consent

News  African Church Information Service (Nairobi). Monday, 3 December 2001.

Mwingirwa Kithure

That fateful Saturday, July 17 this year, is the day Joyce Kananu, 18, vows never to forget until the end of her life. It is the day the unexpected struck. The painful experience Kananu endured while the dirty hands of that sweating woman clinching a piece of rusted razor blade mercilessly mutilated her symbol of womanhood is etched in her mind.

I had gone to visit my auntie, Susan Njau, who stays in Murera village, Baibariu sub-location of Ndoleli division in Nyambebe hills. Since I don't go to school, having dropped out in class three because of fee problems after my mother separated with my father, I had plenty of time at our home in Uthiiru Gaiti, many kilometres from Maua town, Meru-North district.

After I had settled at my aunt's place, she sent me to the market. Since I was a regular visitor to the region, I knew some women. I met some on my way to the market.

I greeted them, but they insisted I come in their compound and greet them by hand. Since I did not suspect anything fishy, I proceded to greet them by hand, though protesting that I was in a hurry.

One woman called Karauki asked her to enter her house, which was open, and have some food. She initially hesitated, citing elapsing time, but finally they succeeded in prevailing upon her to enter and have some food.

She entered Karauki's hut and she heaped food on her palms. Suddenly, Karauki and four other women flung the door closed.

Singing circumcision songs and ululating, they held her and informed her that she has done a grave sin by entering a house hosting a Ngutu - a circumcised woman - while she was a Mukenye- uncircumcised girl.

Realising the messy situation she was in, she pleaded with them that they let her out since it is them who tricked her.

They could not hear any of this. Beating had now started and stripping was progressing slowly while they poked fun at her anatomical features.

While this continued, some women had gone to her aunt's place to inform her of Kananu's capture and the only way out. This ostensibly was circumcision.

My aunt, like I, had resolved that I will never get circumcised since circumcision had more harm than benefits to a girl's body, she said.

Her aunt stubbornly refused to grant them the go-ahead to cut her as she learnt from the women who tripped back to the room where she was held hostage. Nevertheless, they resolved that she had to be circumcised.

By now, I was soaked in tears, consumed by fright and resignedly coiled on the dirty floor awaiting my fate. Inebriated by a local brew called Kaanga, the four women sought the assistance of 12 men, who forcibly held me, some separating my twitched legs.

When I tried to bring my knees together, one man hit me. This is the recovering wound they inflicted on me, Kananu pointed to us while sobbing.

She said the pain was searing. The circumciser, drunk and with trembling hands, cut her clitoris slowly and with a thrice punctuation of hesitation to enjoy the excruciating pain registered on her concocted face.

I was sited on a pool of blood. The razor blade, removed from a basket hung on a wall, had probably been used to circumcise my predecessor, who was enjoying every bit of my painful experience.

Most disheartening, the women and the helping men would pause to sip mouthfuls of Kaanga while I was in pain and soaked in blood, she recalls.

When they finished the gruelling mutilation, they told her to rest. By now, the women were excitedly singing. All night long, she had eaten nothing, except a cup of black tea that they cooked for her. Yes, it was sugarless. They did not care to bathe her, neither bothered to give her anything to cover herself with from the biting July cold.

The knowledge that she could not avoid infections in such dumpy conditions nagged her tortured mind, but she thought she was a captive without rights. Escape was unimaginable because of the acute pain she was experiencing. She could hardly stand.

The following day, her infuriated aunt went to inform the police at Kiutine Police Post that she had been captured and forcibly circumcised. Her captors got wind that the police had been informed of her circumcision.

Because of this, Karauki asked her to tell the police that she circumcised her out of her own wish. When she declined, the woman ran away when she heard that the police were about to strike.

When police arrived, they arrested the woman taking care of us. Karauki had escaped. My mother, accompanied by Abraham Kamuyu M'ikirima of Nyambene Child Ministry (NCM), took me to the hospital, where I was given drugs that I am now using.

Kamuyu hired a vehicle that took her home, and is facilitating the arrest of her circumciser.

Now that she has been circumcised without her consent and the act cannot be reversed, she is bitter. The realisation that she will not be able to enjoy the sexual pleasures that uncircumcised women relish, and that she is among the circumcised women who are likely to experience delivery problems saddens her a lot.

Kananu's experience is one among many such circumcision cases that are carried out in  External link Meru District. NCM Executive Director Mr Kamuyu reveals that 36 cases of girls' circumcision have been reported this year, and there are numerous others taking place underground.

Kamuyu adds that parents in the district force their daughters to circumcise in order to pay for them school fees or get husbands. They discourage their sons from marrying uncircumcised girls, citing numerous outdated traditions.

It took the intervention of the government and Kamuyu's NCM to have the father of a girl in the district called Regina Kaunanku pay for her school fees.

The father had chased the girl away from home in 1998 for refusing to get circumcised, while her sister obliged so that her father could pay her school fees.

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