Dr Tatu Kamau is the woman in courts championing for the practice of Female Genital Mutilation as a rite of passage to be upheld, but this time, as a right to culture as enshrined in article 44 of the Constitution. According to the Constitution, every person has the right to participate in the cultural life of the person’s choice. Civil Society groups, human rights champions and champions of the rights of the woman and/or girl child have vehemently opposed this move stating that it will, if it hasn’t already, eroded their efforts at legally doing away with the harmful practice. The doctor stated that she is not interested in the girls, rather, the women. According to her, once you reach the age of majority, there is no reason why such a decision cannot be made. Her emphasis is on the matter of consent where this would also be done medically and professionally.
Female Genital Mutilation has more often than not been associated with failure to uphold the inherent human dignity of the Kenyan women and women all over the world. The Constitution recognises culture as the foundation of the nation and as the cumulative civilization of the Kenyan people. However, the same law states that a person shall not compel another to perform or undergo any cultural practice or rite. The efforts that have also been spearheaded by President Uhuru Kenyatta where he witnessed the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between religious and cultural leaders from 22 counties identified as FGM hotspots and the Ministry of Youth and Gender Affairs to end the practice by the end of 2020 in the respective counties.
Therefore, where should the line be drawn between preservation of culture and upholding the dignity of our girls and women? For Dr Tatu, she may have never experienced what ‘the cut’ does to the victim. In my opinion, the whole point of having it done medically by a professional doctor negates the whole idea of it being a cultural practice. Notwithstanding, large numbers of women who have undergone ‘the cut’ have come out to champion against it, it having very adverse effects on, not only their health, but also their well-being. For the women who have experienced it to come out and protest against it should mean a lot for a community or country that seeks to develop socially and economically.
Our very own courts expounded on what human dignity is. “Human dignity is that intangible element that makes a human being complete.  It goes to the heart of human identity.  Every human has a value.  Human dignity can be violated through humiliation, degradation or dehumanisation.  Each individual has inherent dignity which our Constitution protects.  Human dignity is the cornerstone of the other human rights enshrined in the Constitution.”
A jurisprudence in India observed that human dignity is intertwined with the development of a nation. The Supreme Court stated that “…The basic principle of the dignity and freedom of the individual is common to all nations, particularly those having democratic set up. Democracy requires us to respect and develop the free spirit of human being which is responsible for all progress in human history. Democracy is also a method by which we attempt to raise the living standard of the people and to give opportunities to every person to develop his/her personality… In fact, there is a growing recognition that the true measure of development of a nation is not economic growth; it is human dignity.”
Some women from these communities that practice FGM and underwent the cut have risen up to fight against it. In doing so, they have not tried to stop the culture or the right to culture for the women in the younger generations, far from it. By appreciating the value of our cultural practices, they have found other activities young women can undergo as a rite of passage that cannot be termed as inhumane or degrading. It is important for others like Dr Tatu to understand that our society is not and can never be static. We should therefore try and adopt a progressive approach to some of the activities that can be considered backward.




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  1. Haha! It could, as well, have been written by him, so many people had the same thoughts, and I am…

  2. Thank you! I am kinda sad that we were unable to keep writing for such a long time. However, we…

June 2024