The popular perception of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) being a practice only associated with poor and ill-educated communities has been exposed as false by the Kenya Demographic Health Survey (KDHS). On the contrary it is often richer families that secretly take their daughters for ‘the cut’.
The KHDS shows that of the 12,181 girls below the age of 14 who underwent FGM in 2022, 2,407 were from wealthier families whilst 2,789 were from the poorest families surveyed. The balance were from the middle quintiles.
Influence of ‘Culture’ and Religion
The report said FGM continues among richer and more educated people due to strong beliefs in culture and the influence of religion.
The KHDS report noted: ‘The belief that culture requires FGM decreases with increasing wealth quintile, from 21 per cent of women and 22 per cent of men in the lowest wealth quintile to seven per cent of women and nine per cent of men in the highest wealth quintile.’
Statistics in the report reveal that 41 per cent of females circumcised in urban areas were cut aged five to nine, compared with 25 per cent in rural areas.
The practice of FGM has decreased in Kenya from 38 per cent in 1998 to 15 per cent in 2022 according to the report.
Communities where FGM most prevalent
The KDHS report also showed that FGM prevalence was highest was highest among daughters whose mother was Somali followed respectively from the communities in Kisii, Samburu, Maasai, Taita Teveta, Embu, Meru, Kalenjin, Kamba and Mijikendia.
In a joint statement issued by the UNFPA representative Anders Thomsen and UNICEF Representative to Kenya Shaheen Nilofer, Thomsen said that FGM robs girls of their childhood, entrenches gender inequality and causes serious physical and mental harm.
The statement went on:
“Progressively, mothers and fathers are choosing to protect young girls from undergoing FGM. However, progress is not even across the country – many of the counties where the practice continues are also those affected by ongoing drought, leading to risk of setback in these areas”.