Female genital cutting as a tool to control female sexual desire among the Somali community in Kenya
Presentation at the 2nd Africa Conference on Sexual Health and Rights, Nairobi, 19-21 June
Sheikh Abdi,Maryam; Jaldesa,Guyo; Askew,Ian; Evelia,Humphres
Publication date: 2006
Despite many decades of active campaigning against FGC, and the recent legislation to make it illegal under the Children's Act, it remains practiced widely in Kenya. Results from 2003 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey indicate a prevalence rate of 97 percent among the Somali community where the most serious form (infibulation) is practiced. Several related reasons are used to sustain the practice in the community including control of sexual desire in women. In 2005, the Population Council, with funding from USAID, initiated a project to understand the extent and rationale of the practice in the community.
To document reasons used by the Somali community to justify continuation of FGC in relation to female sexuality.
The studies used in-depth interviews, focus group discussions, and a structured questionnaire.
The Somali community perceives FGC as a critical component of its culture to control female sexual desires and a tool for fostering family honor.The sample community believes FGC preserves female virginity, maintains female monogamy during marriage, and increases male sexual pleasure.FGC is thought to decrease sexual desire in females during and before marriage.Sexually pure women are believed to be fulfilling Islamic obligation and are eligible for marriage, bringing honor to their families.
- Strategies to correct these beliefs could be to advocate for reducing the emphasis on genital cutting and sewing as the main indicators of virginity.- Major rationales are based on norms concerning female sexual desires and purity, thus to address these will require open discussions about sexuality.
Equality in sexual pleasure is a Sunna and can be justified in Islamic texts, and that any form of cutting reduces a woman's right to this pleasure.
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