Female Genital Cut in Relation to Its Value and Health Risks among the Kisii of Western Kenya


Background: The practice of female genital cutting as a cultural obligation is widespread in Kenya but there is little consensus about its effects on health. Some of the health risks associated with female genital cut range from minor and short-term to major and long-term effects including pain, bleeding, infections, and, in the extreme, death. Female genital cut is widespread among the Kisii but there is no adequate information about how it is currently practised and the value people attach to it. Objective: The objective was to establish the value of female genital cut as well as the health risks associated with the practice among the Kisii community of western Kenya. Methods: This was a cross-sectional study, which employed a mixed method approach to generate both quantitative and qualitative data. The quantitative data were obtained from a randomly selected sample of 373 respondents while quantitative data were generated from focus group discussions as well as key informants interviews. Results: The Kisii consider female genital cut a cultural identifier inherited from past generations and whose main value is a rite of passage from girlhood to womanhood. Majority (63%) had heard of the health risks associated with female genital cut including transmission of infections, excessive bleeding and pain. But most of the community did not seem to know the long-term health consequences associated with female genital cut. Even though knowledge on the campaigns to eradicate the practice was found to be wide spread, the community’s response toward the campaigns was less than positive. Conclusions: The authors conclude that female genital cut continues to persist in this community because of its value as a rite of passage, which currently has no substitute. This cultural demand by far outweighs the health risks associated with female genital cut, which are being mitigated through medicalization of the practice. For intervention programmes to succeed a more culturally sensitive campaign that is acceptable or appropriate alternative rite of passage is required.

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Okemwa, P. , Maithya, H. and Ayuku, D. (2014) Female Genital Cut in Relation to Its Value and Health Risks among the Kisii of Western Kenya. Health, 6, 2066-2080. doi: 10.4236/health.2014.615240.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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