Somali families living in Britain and the United States are bringing their daughters to Kenya to secretly undergo female genital mutiliation (FGM) as their home countries crack down on the internationally condemned practice.
Families pay up to $300 for a girl’s genitals to be cut, said circumcisers and an anti-FGM campaigner in Nairobi’s Eastleigh district, nicknamed Little Mogadishu as it is home to refugees from neighbouring war-torn Somalia and ethnic Somali Kenyans.
“Somalis come from America and Europe,” said one elderly circumciser, wearing a purple and white tie-dye headscarf.
“They always come to me because they are scared to do it there … During the holidays, they come and I cut them.”
The circumciser, who learned the trade as a teenager in northern Kenya, declined to give her name as Kenya has stepped up prosecutions for FGM. The ritual, which involves the partial or total removal of external female genitalia, can cause haemorrhage, shock, childbirth complications, fistula and death.
Under Kenya’s 2011 law, those practising FGM face a minimum of three years in jail or a fine, and life imprisonment if the girl dies. Some 50 cases are in court, with at least two people facing murder charges.
Cutters in Kenya are changing their methods in an attempt to evade the law, switching from infibulation — in which all external genitalia are removed and the vaginal opening stitched closed — to sunna, where only the clitoris is cut or removed.
“I just cut a little,” said the circumciser, gesticulating with hennaed fingernails. “Sunna is good. She still enjoys sex. If you cut it all, she suffers.”
FGM is deeply entrenched among Somalis, most of whom believe it is a religious obligation for Muslims. Campaigners say there is nothing in the Koran that advocates FGM.
Circumcisers learn to perform FGM while training with elder women to become traditional birth attendants. Around half of women in Kenya deliver at home and rely on lay midwives.
An anti-FGM campaigner in Eastleigh said she met a Somali-American from Minnesota in December who came to Nairobi for two weeks to have her daughters, aged 12 and 13, cut.
“The mother feels like she is doing the right thing,” the campaigner said. “She says they are not going to undergo pain because they are doing it the modern way.”
The United States banned FGM in 1996 and has since made it illegal to take a girl abroad to be cut.
…the diaspora communities were helping keep cutters in business.
Muslim Immigration Has Resulted in Increase in Genital Mutilation in U.S., so much so that the DOJ now has to give webinars on preventing female genital mutilation in America. In Phoenix: 98% of Somali women being treated have undergone genital mutilation (FGM).
Yet we still import tens of thousands of Somalis.