A medical doctor, Tatu Kamau (Pictured) has asked the High Court to lift laws banning Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)
Speaking before a three-judge bench consisting of Justices Lydiah Achode, Margaret Muigai and Kanyi Kimondi, Ms. Kamau said she wanted willing adult women to freely opt for the outlawed act as a way of observing their culture and for hygiene.
“There is nowhere in the Constitution that this dignity and respect is defined and how it should be done. It is left to individuals to interpret it. If an adult girl wants to be circumcised, then she should be left to do it and that should be respected,” she argued.
Dr Kamau’s argument is that circumcision is different from mutilation. She said mutilation involved completely chopping off a part of the body.
She however, acknowledged that FGM has its side effects such as birth complications and in some instances, a woman was left unable to hold her bladder after the procedure. In other cases, she acknowledges, the cut had been fatal.
FGM is banned in Kenya, though some communities in the far-flung hard to govern areas such as Kuria West Pokot and coastal Kenya, the practice is still alive.
Cultural practices such as female genital mutilation and early marriages are some of the factors that affect school attendance for girls.
So far, the Kenyan authorities are not winning the war against FGM since parents and practitioners have devised ways to beat them at their games. Sometimes parents take their kids for the cut at night or lie about the whereabouts of their girls; who have gone for the cut.
Parliament passed the Female Genital Mutilation Act in 2011 and spelled a punishment of between three years and life imprisonment for those caught conducting FGM, those who cause death of an initiate in the process and also a fine of Sh200,000 as an alternative punishment.
“Your petitioner avers that the dignity of the traditional practitioners of the female circumcision is disregarded and actively demanded through the State- sanctioned ridicule and harassment of individuals and communities,” she argued.
“Every citizen has a right to equality and freedom from discrimination, but the said Act shows open intolerance to women who wish to undergo female circumcision even for the purpose of upholding their culture. They are treated unequally to the men who undergo similar surgical procedure.”
She said: “Every citizen is entitled to freedom of conscience, religion, belief and opinion, but the said Act discriminates directly against women of specific ethnicity and religious beliefs with reference to their traditional practice of female circumcision.”
The doctor’s view is that women can equally undergo the adulthood initiation process safely if a female gets proper training, just as the traditional male counterparts. “The Act has created distress within some communities by overly favouring the cultural practices of one gender against the cultural practices of the other gender in contravention of the constitutional fundamental right of gender equality,” she adds.
Dr. Kamau holds a master’s degree in Public Health from the University of Nairobi, which she obtained in 1998. She obtained her first degree from Andhra University, India in 1988. She was registered to practice on August 15, 1990.
The case continues.
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