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International News

Kenya to Ban Female Genital Excision

December 19, 2001

Kenyan women last week won a 20-year battle to outlaw genital excision of young girls, but doubts remain over whether the government will vigorously enforce the ban. Even after President Daniel Arap Moi promised to sign the legislation criminalizing it, many parents defied him by subjecting their daughters to the procedure.

The new law makes it a crime to perform the procedure on girls younger than 17. Parents and medical providers can receive a minimum of 12 months in prison and a fine of about $620, nearly twice the average annual wage in Kenya. Many ethnic groups regard the procedure as a rite of passage from childhood to womanhood and argue that it stifles promiscuity by reducing a woman's sexual pleasure. Studies have shown that nearly 40 percent of Kenyan women ages 15 to 49 have undergone the procedure, in which all or part of the clitoris is removed. In this East African nation, health officials say genital excision is routinely performed on girls as young as 6. Opponents say the practice carries deadly risks, including infection, death during childbirth and the spread of HIV, because the same unsanitary knives are used in multiple operations.

"I'm ordering the police and urging peaceful members of the public to be watchful," Moi said. "If parents of the girls do not take heed of the new law, the government will act according to human rights and protect the children." Judy Thongori, head of litigation for the Kenyan chapter of the International Federation of Women Lawyers, said the government and interest groups need to launch a massive education campaign highlighting the dangers of female genital excision. ". . . We need to put the fear of the law in these people, but we also need to show them why it's not the right thing," she said. But Jimmy Nuru Angwenyi, a lawmaker from Moi's own party, told reporters the procedure should be promoted and that he would even pay the cost for any girls who wished to undergo it.

Back to other CDC news for December 19, 2001

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Adapted from:
Los Angeles Times
12.15.01; Davan Maharaj

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
See Also
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