The current and changing nature of female genital mutilation (FGM) among the Abagusii: a study of Suneka division, Kisii county
The purpose of this research project was to determine why FGM had persisted among the Abagusii, a society characterized by fast changes both socially and economically. The practice had been discouraged in the past but some communities in Kenya have continued practicing it. Despite the pressure to abolish it from all quarters, it has persisted and taken new forms. The practice of female genital mutilation had lived for a Millennium and is believed to have started in ancient Egypt. One of the broad aims of this study was to examine the nature of current trends of FGM among the Abagusii. A further concern was to establish why the practice had persisted in the Abagusii society despite the government ban. It was also to find out why the Abagusii had resorted to this other trends in female circumcision. Whether these trends discourage this practice, the impact of the ban and sensitization campaigns which had been launched against the practice were also examined and how people had responded to the same. A sample size of 70 respondents was selected to represent both rural and urban Kisii. A field study was aimed at fulfilling the study objectives outlined above and was carried in Kisii municipality of Kisii district and Suneka division of Suneka district. Kisii district is among the category of the highest in prevalence. The study collected raw data based on a structured interview schedule. More primary data was generated using key informants and focus group discussions. An investigation into the current trends established that there were alternative rites of passages for initiates. This includes girls’ empowerment programmes through organized seminars among others. The study established that upholding cultural traditions was the main reason why FGM persisted in the Abagusii society despite the government ban. Female circumcision was considered an integral part of the Kisii people’s way of life and culture as the study found out in interviews. As one respondent pointed out, Kisii community circumcises girls because that is the way it has always been and because it is considered an integral part of their heritage and culture. Preserving sexual morality was another reason given why FGM persisted. Interviews showed that it was widely believed that circumcision reduces sexual urge in women. In continuing with the practice, the Kisii seek to ensure that their women do not become promiscuous. The study concluded that despite stiff social resistance, progress towards abandonment of FGM can be achieved through well focused incremental programmes advocated by churches, schools and exposure to other cultures. The study recommends that similar studies be carried out in other districts of Kisii to compare their findings of this study. There is need to carry out other studies in rural villages in Kisii since this study was carried in one district in order to ascertain the prevalence of the practice in these areas.