Some are calling it “Independence day for women.” MP Sophia Abdi Noor said, “Men got their independence in 1963 – but today women have achieved independence from the cruel hands of society.”
This week two anti-FGM/C laws were passed in the Kenyan parliament as part of the Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Bill. These laws make it illegal (entirely, as opposed to just by force or just for a minor) to practice or procure the cut, and bring about much more severe consequences for offenders. The bill proposes a seven-year jail sentence and a fine of 500,000 Kenya shillings for people who force women to undergo the cut. If a woman dies while undergoing the cut, the person responsible would receive a life sentence.
The bill also makes it a crime to ridicule a woman who has not undergone the cut, so that using derogatory or abusive language towards a woman because she has not undergone the cut can land you six months in jail, a 50,000 shilling fine, or both. This part is particularly uplifting to me, as I have spoken to several women who say that they or their loved ones have undergone the cut largely as a result of the fact that they may be ridiculed, even professionally held back, if they were to reject circumcision. It is fantastic that the bill recognizes the severity of community pressure to undergo the cut. The bill has yet to be signed into law by the president, but seems widely assumed that he will do so.
I celebrate the work of the many advocates and the Kenyan Women Parliamentary Association for their tireless efforts to protect girls from FGM/C. The law certainly will not stop the practice entirely, but it will bolster those opposing FGM and may help to bring about a change in attitude.
Now we must begin to advocate for the implementation of the enacted law. As I have written about before, the implementation of laws relating to domestic oppression of women in rural areas is agonizingly weak. For now, I am spreading the news as fast as I can, hoping at the least to get a conversation about the severity of the crime started, and maybe even garner a little more support from the local government.
Posted By Charlotte Bourdillon
Posted Sep 14th, 2011