FGM leading to divorce, failed marriages, activists say

The pain and scars brought about by Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) on many girls and women in pastoral communities is leading to many divorce and marriage break ups due to lack of conjugal rights.

Anti-FGM activist Domtillah Chesang says women that have undergone FGM at a later age reportedly lose their urge for intimacy because of the pain experienced after the cut.

“After they are cut, no one oversees or takes care of the girls yet they have wounds. Those doing it are not experienced and not known, these are people who will not be recognised. The girls don’t reveal the cutters. They take a vow. After the cut, girls run home with wounds and no one knows. They cause more harm because they use spot lights at night. This causes many to go for surgery. No one wants to marry a lady whose sexual organ has been damaged or mutilated,” she said.

She explained that there is a gap between sexual desire and marital satisfaction and their fulfilment reflects in the mental health of people in case a woman is cut.

“This threatens the happiness of couples and consequently the whole family. Older women who are affected are socialised not to speak about their woes, their pain and suffering,” she said.

Chesang said that many women decide to encourage and support their men to marry other wives to escape the pain.

“If they are two or three wives they can share the pain. The moment a woman approaches 40 years they don’t see eye-to-eye with their husbands in the Pokot community,” she noted.

Another emerging trend she said is that young men are now going for women who are not circumcised.

“The educated men don’t want to cut girls. It will reach a point where cut girls will not be married. In women, the feeling is over after giving birth to 3 and 4 children,” she said.

On the other hand, Komesi Women Network Organisation Chairperson Susan Krop delved into the stigma that some women undergo in their marriages stemming from not having undergone the cut.

“Mothers-in-law are the stumbling block as they can’t allow one to stay with her if not cut. They harass and abuse you when you are still green. You can’t milk a cow or take milk to a husband,” she said.

She said that men are inciters and make women go for the cut.

“A man cannot eat the food of an uncircumcised woman. Men are also to blame. They call women children. His friends can’t eat his wife’s food. They look at the uncut women with bad eyes and they won’t get a husband,” she said.

She said that even older women are still cut.

“A mother of four or five children must be cut because the man gave 37 cows as dowry. Some opt to stay in marriages just because of children,” she said.

She pointed out old men and old women still stick to the outdated culture as they use it as an economic activity adding that movement of pastoralists from one place to another was also contributing to the increase of the vice.

“Women and girls are cut because schools are far away in remote areas,” she said.

In West Pokot County where FGM is a requirement of transition from childhood to womanhood, is rampant Lomut, Masol, Sekerr, Weiwei and Alale areas.

Pokot Central Sub County Deputy County commissioner James Ajuang noted that they are sensitising the community on the vices.

“We have done many baraza’s but we still get many reports about FGM. The law is very clear about FGM and anybody found to be involved will be arrested and taken to court,” he said.

Other FGM effects are haemorrhage, HIV, shock, infection, urine retention and severe pain.

This leads to lack of trust, anxiety, depression, infertility, child birth complications, postpartum haemorrhage, stillbirth and neonatal deaths.

It is estimated that more than 200 million women and girls alive today have undergone some form of FGM (United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), 2016)

Kenya aims to end FGM by 2030, seven years later after failing to end it in the year 2022.

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