Journal Article

Plurality of beliefs about female genital mutilation amidst decades of intervention programming in Narok and Kisii Counties, Kenya

Female genital mutilation derails efforts to achieve gender equality and the empowerment of girls and women. In Kenya, national estimates show a steady decline in prevalence, although there is considerable variation at the sub-national level. There is a need to better understand female genital mutilation-related norms and meanings and whether there have been changes in these given long-term and diverse efforts to promote abandonment. Focusing on Narok and Kisii counties, we conducted a cross-sectional qualitative study to identify social norms surrounding the practice of female genital mutilation, as well as consensus or contestation with respect to these norms. Ten focus group discussions were held with men and women aged 18 years and older from the Maasai and Abagusii communities that have traditionally practised female genital mutilation. Study findings showed that norms associated with female genital mutilation such as sexuality and marriageability were actively contested by community members. This change may provide a useful starting point for programmes that seek to create dialogue and critical reflection on female genital mutilation to accelerate its abandonment.