Covid-19 pandemic fuelling FGM surge in Tharaka Nithi

County Commissioner Beverly Opwora

Tharaka Nithi County Commissioner Beverly Opwora who said FGM is deep-rooted in some parts of the region.

School girls in Tharaka Nithi County are facing a rough time as the Covid-19 pandemic presents the best opportunity for perpetrators of female circumcision to promote the outdated and illegal practice. The girls are also exposed to the danger of teenage pregnancies.

It has been revealed that some parents have taken the advantage of their daughters being out of school, and the fact that people have been advised to remain in their homes as a measure to curb the spread of the virus, to promote FGM.

According to Tharaka Nithi County Commissioner Beverly Opwora, the practice is deep-rooted in some parts of Igambang’ombe, Tharaka North and Tharaka South sub-counties where even very young girls are being circumcised.

Speaking to journalists last week, Ms Opwora said the illegal cultural practice is normally a top secret exercise which is being conducted at night in a bid to ensure it is not detected by administration officers.

But she said that her office had received information on some of those who have circumcised their girls and that investigations are ongoing in order to make sure that they face the law.

Ms Opwora warned that chiefs and their assistants in the affected areas must take responsibility, noting that some could be collaborating with the perpetrators.

Most notorious

Kathangacini area in Tharaka North Sub-County has been marked as the most notorious region where almost all girls as young as 10 years have been circumcised.

Women from other regions who are married in the have also been having a hard time as they are also being forced to undergo the cut. 

Ms Opwora has warned that those discriminating against the uncircumcised girls or mothers in the villages either by insulting or segregating them will also face the law.

“It’s illegal to use words that describe a woman as uncircumcised or even discriminate her,” said the county administrator.

According to residents, some mother-in-law’s cannot eat food prepared by their uncircumcised daughter in-law’s, compelling their sons to force them to undergo the cut.

The uncircumcised girls are also not allowed to fetch water from the same well with those who have undergone FGM or even gather firewood together with them.

The intimidation pushes some of the girls to undergo the dangerous cultural practice.

A resident of Kathangacini who declined to be named for fear of victimisation said the circumciser, an elderly woman, hails from Gatunga area.

During this year’s Mashujaa Day celebrations, Ms Opwora said a total of 311 teenage girls had been impregnated in the county during the pandemic period.

She added that 35 cases of other gender-based violence had also been reported during the period.

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