It is a classic case of the law finding itself caught between modernity and tradition. A Wajir woman has been arrested and is awaiting arraignment in court after her daughter died in a female circumcision gone wrong.
Also in court is a traditional female circumciser who presided over the botched operation. The two cannot be named for legal reasons, but in Wajir, local clan elders and religious leaders are up in arms over the arrests.
They say it was just an accident, and do not see why anyone should face charges of murder or manslaughter in a case they say should be handled traditionally by elders.
Week in custody
After more than a week in custody at the Wajir Police Station, the mother is yet to come to terms with the double tragedy — the death of her seven-year-old daughter and the prospect of spending time in jail.
“This is just God’s case, and it has no appeal,” relative who identified himself as Abdi told the Nation. “No parent would like to cause death of her own child.
“This is like an accident. Clan elders can settle the issue,” Abdi said, echoing other family members who want the women released.
The case has now generated controversy in Wajir. Police insist the two caused the death of the girl and must face the law. But elders and religious leaders say the arrests are unfair and an affront to local cultural and Islamic sensibilities.
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is widely practised in the Somali community, with more than 97 per cent of girls going through the ritual.crime
Local and international pressure groups have long campaigned for an end to the practice, which is also common in some other communities in Kenya including Central, Eastern, Nyanza and Rift Valley provinces.
During the current school holidays, hundreds of girls have gone through the ritual in North Eastern Province, despite the spirited campaigns by the government and activist groups against the rite of passage.
One of the most prominent local campaigners against the practice is nominated councillor Rukia Abdille. “It is a second degree felony that needs to be eradicated,” she said firmly.
But 46-year-old Mrs Abdow Ahmed retorts: “They are telling us to stop mutilating our girls; where on earth are we heading to? we were mutilated too! Do they want our girls to run mad?”
And anti-FGM campaigners acknowledge they are making little headway in the conservative community.
“We are facing an angry backlash from the community who believe that we are coming with a foreign ideology,” said Ms Ardo Mohamed, Wajir district anti-FGM and gender coordinator.
“When we are talking about the thorny issue of FGM, women herders know we — women campaigners — have been Mutilated too. Why do we have to preach now, they wonder?”
Even religious leaders strongly resist any move to eradicate girl circumcision. “We are doing what is called for by our religion,” says Wajir branch Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims (Supkem) chairman Sheikh Abdullahi Ubied. “This is Islamic culture and it is part of our religion”.(so sick shame on you)
The Supkem official, however, advocates that infibulation, the most extreme form of female genital mutilation practiced in the region, should be avoided if possible.
The rite is, however, not practised by all Muslims, and according to some scholars, seems to have cultural rather than Islamic roots.
The death of the young girl seems not to have moved locals to abandon the female mutilation. And neither has the arrest of her mother and the “surgeon” shaken their belief in the rite of passage.
My thoughts...it is so sick that mothers because they were mutilated to do that to their babies! I don't understand how I can subject my child through this castration just because I was mutilated, and that women believe their womanhood means to be mutilated and satisfy a man and bare children! this is manupilation of the highest order from a man and from the religion....committing a crime in the name of religion...which kind of god that allows murder,abuse in his/her/whatever name? this should be stopped now ASAP! and all this religion excuse is all men ways to control women!
Ambassador Lucy .s .Mashua President of Mashua's voice for the voiceless International