Wealthy Somalis flout Kenyan law to have daughters circumcised

July 15, 2014 7:43 am
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President Uhuru Kenyatta in December appointed Linah Jebii Kilimo as chairwoman of the state-run Anti-FGM Board Kenya. Kenyatta’s wife, Margaret, said in May female circumcision “should not have any place in any community living in the 21st century.”/XINHUA FILE
President Uhuru Kenyatta in December appointed Linah Jebii Kilimo as chairwoman of the state-run Anti-FGM Board Kenya. Kenyatta’s wife, Margaret, said in May female circumcision “should not have any place in any community living in the 21st century.”/XINHUA FILE

, NAIROBI, Kenya, July 15- Halima Abdi charges foreign visitors at least $1,000 for a tour of remote northeastern Kenyan villages that most people wouldn’t dream of making. Her clients are young girls sent by their parents to undergo traditional circumcision.

Most of her customers are ethnic Somalis who arrive from countries such as the U.K., Sweden and the Netherlands, Abdi explained in an interview at her cramped one-room office in the suburb of Eastleigh in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi. Abdi says she’s offered “consultancy services” to hundreds of migrant families from abroad since she began operating in 2000.

“I have undergone the female cut and I have administered the same to my daughters and their granddaughters too will go through it,” said Abdi, a 48-year-old mother of five children. “These beliefs and values are still present and valued by Somalis in Africa and the developed world.”

While female genital mutilation has been illegal in Kenya since 2011, practitioners like Abdi continue to earn a handsome living from the procedure. The Wagalla Centre for Peace and Human Rights, a Wajir, Kenya-based advocacy group, says the practice has made some circumcisers rich enough to buy four- wheel-drive vehicles, build luxury homes in remote villages and acquire livestock.

As part of Kenya’s efforts to curb the practice, President Uhuru Kenyatta in December appointed Linah Jebii Kilimo as chairwoman of the state-run Anti-FGM Board Kenya. Kenyatta’s wife, Margaret, said in May female circumcision “should not have any place in any community living in the 21st century.”

‘Risky Business’

Decades of conflict in Somalia, coupled with a growing international campaign against the female genital mutilation, has forced Somali parents to send their daughters to foreign countries to undergo what they consider to be a cultural rite of passage. Ninety eight percent of Somali women have undergone FGM, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund.

Once Abdi has completed travel arrangements for her clients, parents and their daughters are driven in private vehicles to Garissa near the Somali border about 200 miles northeast of Nairobi. The journey usually involves paying bribes to security and immigration officials in Garissa who often check the documents of foreign visitors, she said.

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