Kenya: inside the Kenya-Tanzania cross-border FGM
Lekarokia Ole Nang’oro stands on a rock at Olkiloriti in Oloitoktok, South Kajiado Sub-County, Kajiado County. He looks at the village of Mbomai in Tanzania, which is opposite.
It is on the Tanzania-Kenya border. There is no fence or clear mark of the boundary. It’s like an open field.
A few minutes later, a boda boda operator drives a passenger from Tanzania to Kenya across the border. There is no security guard to issue the travel permit.
And this is how girls are easily moved from Kenya to Tanzania to undergo female genital mutilation (FGM).
Cross-border FGM is a major obstacle in the fight against vice in Kenya, a country where the government seeks to end the practice by next year, in just one month.
The prevalence of FGM in Tanzania (10%) is half that of Kenya (21%).
Regarding legislation, Kenya has an express law in the FGM Prohibition Act 2011, which prohibits FGM on a girl and a woman, and further prohibits cross-border FGM.
Under the law, an offender faces a prison term of at least three years or a fine of at least 200,000 shillings.
In Tanzania, the government prohibits FGM under its 1998 Sexual Offenses Act, which criminalizes the act against girls under the age of 18. Those convicted of the crime are imprisoned for five to 15 years or fined up to TSh 300,000 (Ksh 14,471).
FGM advocates attribute this lack of harmonized legislation as one of the reasons cross-border FGM is rampant between Kenya and Tanzania.
Meanwhile, the girls continue to suffer at the hands of their parents and loved ones.
The Maasai community in Kenya has parents in Tanzania, which makes it easier for them to take their daughters to be cut under the guise of a normal visit.
A case of Talei (his identity is protected) from Rombo, Kajiado Sud.
A week after the schools were closed for the December 2018 vacation, his paternal uncle visited him.
Later, her father informed her that she was to accompany her uncle to visit a friend in Userri, Tanzania, she was 14 years old.
They took a bus and arrived at the property of a woman she had never met before. After two days, the host told her that she had been made to have the cut.
And with a razor, she accomplished the mission.
“I could have run away if I was in Kenya,” she says
Upon her return home a week later, she noticed some unusual occurrences at their property.
“I saw a man bring five cows, a blanket and sugar. It didn’t bother me until a friend of my mother told me that my dowry had been paid, ”she says.
“We had no cattle. I understand my father was trying to escape poverty through me. And I know he failed to follow me to school since he had nothing. “, says Talei.
She was then rescued after her mother’s friend informed the police of her intention to marry her. She was taken to a rescue center in Kajiado County and the management enrolled her in a local school to continue her education.
She says her mother couldn’t protect her from arranged marriage because “she doesn’t have the power to say ‘no’ to her husband’s decisions.
Neema’s grandmother (identity protected) lives in Lang’ata, Tanzania.
In December 2015, shortly after the schools closed, she visited their home in Njukini, South Kajiado. When she returned, she said she was leaving with her so that she could keep him company until schools reopened in January. She was then nine years old.
They left and the next day she woke her up to cut her off.
“She told me that I was a big girl and that it was time for me to be circumcised. So she cut me herself with a razor. At that point, I didn’t “had no idea the cut was harmful or illegal. I just agreed. After a week I was fine and doing the housework,” she says.
She returned home in January 2016, only to be informed by her father that she was ready for marriage.
Neema said, “My father is poor. He struggled to feed and educate all six of us. He would get cows from my marriage. I wouldn’t have done anything if the suitor had finally come to get me.
She was saved by her cousin, who placed her in a school for girls rescued from FGM and early marriage in Kajiado County.
Poverty is a stand-off in the fight against FGM, says Mr. Lekarokia, chair of the Nyumba Kumi Initiative in Kajiado County.
It shows us the vast expanses of porous borders through which girls are transported at night using boda bodas.
“FGM here is kind of a precondition for wealth. Fathers will tell you that if I cut my daughter and marry her, I will have five or six cows,” he says.
Often the girls are transported at night to avoid being arrested, he says.
“There are a lot of unsafe roads that these criminals (the ones who take the girls out for cutting) use,” he says.
To curb criminal activity, Nyumba Kumi leaders have decided to ban cross-border travel by boda boda after 10 p.m. and before 6 a.m.
Emergency travel for medical treatment was permitted during curfew hours. But leader Nyumba Kumi should be informed of the name of the hospital to be visited and the need for emergency treatment noted.
They would then inform the Tanzanian authorities to determine if this is a real or disguised case for subjecting the girls to excision.
Mr Lekarokia says the girls are mainly taken to Tanzania during the long December holidays. During this time, they save up to six girls.
Last year, he says, they rescued eight girls who were being transported to Tanzania by boda boda runners for the cut.
In all cases, the parents had planned with the cutters the possibility of committing the crime. The riders were to deliver only the girls.
“Parents would take them to hospitals in Tanzania, but they started avoiding them when they realized we were following them. So now they’re doing it on the farms. .
Tanzanian inspector Paul Kimassa says it is difficult to know the data on Kenyan girls brought to the country for excision.
He says the deep secrecy in which cross-border FGM is practiced and the conspiracy of the local population to encourage crime complicates the monitoring of criminal activity.
“People prefer to avoid reporting these cases to stay in good books with their neighbors,” he says.
But with their Kenyan authorities along the border, including police, chiefs and Nyumba Kumi leaders, they continue to educate residents on both sides about community policing.
“Once we make the arrests, we send the Kenyan nationals back to Kenya for the authorities to prosecute. While we conduct our own investigations and pursue those in Tanzania, ”he said.
Ms. Judy Mamkwe, a Tanzanian from Kikelwa in the Kilimanjaro region, reported five cases of cross-border FGM last year, having been told about the community’s role in saving girls from cutting.
“I must be discreet in the way I inform the authorities to avoid reprisals,” explains Ms. Mamkwe, whose role shows the importance of educating residents about community policing.
“I try as much as possible to speak with my female colleagues to stop aiding the crime by refusing to cut girls or denounce those who bring girls in for the cut,” she said.
To end cross-border FGM, it is necessary to swiftly prosecute offenders and have more resources available to the institutions concerned, especially the local administration, security agencies and anti-FGM organizations, stakeholders say.
“The Kenyan government has not allocated adequate and sufficient resources to ensure the full implementation of the anti-FGM law and eliminate FGM in the country,” said Caroline Lagat, End Harmful Practices program manager at Equality Now .
She said member states of the East African Community should commit to passing a regional law, which will criminalize FGM in all countries and force them to coordinate to end FGM.
“Currently, laws across the territories of EAC member states vary, with some having no laws prohibiting FGM. They should also implement the regional declaration and the action plan to combat FGM that they adopted in April 2019, ”she said.
She urges sensitization of boda boda runners “so that they can provide information to law enforcement officers when they suspect they are being hired to help and encourage FGM.”
Dorcus Parit, founder of the Hope Beyond Foundation, which is actively involved in rescuing girls at risk of FGM and child marriage, says that in the past six months they have rescued 20 girls in the sub- South Kajiado County.
“In all 20 cases, the perpetrators were arrested and brought to justice. Business is ongoing. A swift conviction of the perpetrators will deter others from supporting FGM or child marriage, ”she said.
Oloitoktok Senior Chief Isaiah Ole Samana said daughters from Endonet, Rombo, Lenkisim, Oltiasika and Kuku are most at risk of cross-border FGM.
And due to the size of the area, it is difficult to respond quickly when such cases are reported due to limited resources.
“We would end this cross-border FGM if every division had a vehicle,” he says.
“For example, there is a vehicle attached to DC (Deputy County Commissioner) and two to the police and often they are in operation. If we were to save a girl in Lenkisim, by the time we got a vehicle, she would have walked through. the border.”