Members of the Kenyan Women Parliamentary Association said it was a historic day. Linah Kilimo, its chairperson, said the move would improve school attendance. And Sophia Abdi Noor said:
I have fought for 18 years to achieve this legislation. Today is independence day for women. Men got their independence in 1963 – but today women have achieved independence from the cruel hands of society.
Unicef congratulated Kenya. Its child protection specialist in Kenya, Zeinab Ahmed said:
It is a great day for the girl child of Kenya. FGM is a serious violation of the rights of the child and of women. This bill gives an indication from government it is not just a cultural practice that can go on. The government has taken a bold step and will not tolerate any more violations. I applaud the work of Kewopa, the ministry of gender and the many other partners who have worked tirelessly to ensure that girls are protected from FGM.
Nobody imagines this means FGM will never take place again in Kenya, but making it illegal is a massive step towards changing attitudes and giving strength to those who oppose the practice. Kenya follows a number of African governments in outlawing the practice. According to the Pan African news agency, at the time of the African Union summit in June, which proposed prohibition of FGM, Benin, Ivory Coast, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, Niger, Nigeria, Kenya, Central African Republic, Senegal, Chad, Tanzania, Togo and Uganda already had legislation against it.
But in nine countries (including some of those where it is illegal) it is still widely practised. In Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Guinea, Mali, Sierra Leone, Somalia and Sudan, 85% of women undergo mutilation.
Professor Shirley Randell AO, PhD, FACE, FAIM, FAICD
Convener for International Relations, Rwanda Association of University Women
Director, Centre for Gender, Culture and Development Studies
Kigali Institute of Education (KIE) Rwanda
PO Box 5039, Remera, Kigali, Rwanda
Tel: +250 (0)2 5511 7138 Fax: +250 (0)2 5258 6890 Mob: +250 (0)7 8830 8967
Millennium Development Goals: Yes we can!