The December holiday season in Kenya comes with a lot of activities, one of which is female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C). Patterns in the practice of FGM/C are now shifting from traditional hyped ceremonies to secret ceremonies performed at night, with only members of the household present. This shift makes it difficult to trace the circumcisers, who continue with the practice because they see it as a lucrative business that earns them up to Kshs. 20,000. Although laws have been put in place to discourage FGM/C, chiefs find it difficult to prosecute the perpetrators owing to the absence of consenting witnesses. Sometimes, the victims even deny that any harm was done to them.
After carrying out its own research into these changes, the Office of Director of Public Prosecutions in Kenya is proposing a set of new legal directives. An article by The Star Newspaper highlights this statement, noting that,
“to make it easier to arrest those who refuse to give up FGM, the office of Director of Public Prosecutions is proposing a raft of amendments to the Female Genital Mutilation Act to make it more punitive. The proposed amendments arise from a study report on FGM trends carried out by the DPP’s office among various communities in the country. One of the key amendments is the introduction of a life imprisonment sentence for persons who perform FGM on children aged between 0 and 5 years. ‘This proposal caters for those communities that circumcise girls at their infancy as such it is difficult to detect. In communities such as the Tavetas, this has led to high infant mortality rates,’ the DPP’s report says. The amendments will also introduce an offence of performing FGM on oneself and which will attract a one-year imprisonment and a fine of Sh100, 000. ‘There some communities where the girls or women cut themselves. This occurs mainly where the parents have refused to give their consent for the ceremony. This practice we found was common among the Ameru,’ the DPP’s report says. Attempted FGM will attract an imprisonment of 5 years, according to the proposals by the DPP’s team. The DPP is also proposing that it be an offence to use threats and intimidation is used to cover up for the commission of an offence. This offence, the proposals read, should attract a sentence of three years with no option of a fine. It will also be an offence for teachers and doctors withholding information on cases of FGM that come to their knowledge.”
What do you think about this proposal from the DPP’s office?