‘Cultural right’

Influential Kenyan doctor denounced after launching bid to legalize FGM

Dr. Tatu Kamau. (YouTube)

A doctor who once served in the upper echelons of Kenya’s Ministry of Health is petitioning to legalize female genital mutilation in the country by arguing that the ban on FGM is unconstitutional and discriminates against “national heritage.” Speaking to KTN news after filing papers aimed at overturning the ban, Dr. Tatu Kamau equated having one’s genitals mutilated with buying cigarettes and framed it as a women’s empowerment issue.

“If women can decide to drink, to smoke, women can join the army, women can do all sorts of things that might bring them harm or injury … a woman can [also] make that decision,” she declared. “And once she has made that decision,” Kamau added, “ she should be able to access the best medical care to have it done.”

More than one in five girls in Kenya have undergone FGM, willingly or otherwise, according to the U.N. population fund. The practice of FGM has been illegal in Kenya since 2011, but traditional cutters still perform the procedure, often with unsterilized blades, which can lead to serious injury or death for the women subjected to it. While some tribal elders from Kenya’s Marakwet district have hailed Kamau’s move, describing FGM as their “cultural right,” activists say such claims ignore the grim reality of the practice.

“I am a survivor and I know the extent of the pain that women go through with FGM — it is a violation of our human rights,” said Masai FGM activist Agnes Pareyio, who was cut at age 14 against her will. “Many women still think this is a process they must go through, but when you explain that not every woman is cut, not every society does this, they question why we do it. How can you try to legalize something that kills women? I think [Kamau] is trying to make history.” For more on the story, watch the video below.

Read the full story at The Guardian.

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