Female genital mutilation and other harmful practices
Research studies on the prevalence and classification of female genital mutilation
FGM among the Somali of Kenya
The Somali community living in Kenya (like those within the borders of Somalia) has practised infibulation for centuries. The Frontiers in Reproductive Health programme of the Population Council carried out a study  in the North Eastern Province of Kenya, and in the Eastleigh area of Nairobi, in an effort to understand the context in which the practice takes place and how its complications are managed. Data were collected through in-depth interviews and focus group discussions with community and religious leaders, recently married men and women, and unmarried persons, as well as through interviews with health care providers and with antenatal clients who had undergone FGM. The study also included an assessment of clinics’ readiness to offer services related to safe motherhood and FGM.
The study confirmed that female genital cutting remains a deeply rooted cultural practice that is widely supported. Reasons used to sustain the practice relate to religious obligation, family honour, and virginity as a prerequisite for marriage. An aesthetic preference for infibulated genitalia was also mentioned. Notably, however, genital cutting apparently plays no role as a rite of passage for girls, as in some other cultures.
Infibulation is seen as a means of enforcing the cultural value of sexual purity in females. The researchers point out that, since genital cutting is a critical prerequisite for marriage, it is important to try to generate consensus that marrying uncut women is acceptable within the social group. Thus, “when developing a strategy for working with community members, it would be important to determine marriage patterns and to organize activities accordingly,” the researchers say.
1. Jaldesa GW, Askew I, Njue C, Wanjuri M. Female genital cutting among the Somali of Kenya and management of its complications. Nairobi, Population Council, 2005.