Last Updated: Friday, 19 January 2018, 17:46 GMT

Kenya: Prevalence of female genital mutilation (FGM) in the Kikuyu tribe: age at which practised; consequences of refusal for grand-parents; availability of state protection

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada
Publication Date 2 August 2000
Citation / Document Symbol KEN35138.E
Reference 2
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Kenya: Prevalence of female genital mutilation (FGM) in the Kikuyu tribe: age at which practised; consequences of refusal for grand-parents; availability of state protection, 2 August 2000, KEN35138.E, available at: [accessed 19 January 2018]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

According to a Kenya Demographic Health Survey (1998),  "42.5 per cent of Kikuyu women aged between 15 and 49 have been circumcised" (The Nation 5 Jan. 2000).

In 1982 President Moi reportedly issued an official statement against female genital mutilation (FGM) after the death of 14 girls from FGM-related complications, and directed the police to "charge with murder people who carry out the procedure with fatal results" (ibid.). However, in 1995 a motion moved by a female member of parliament to outlaw the practice was defeated. The chairperson of the Federation of Women Lawyers in Kenya (Fida), reportedly stated that the Constitution sanctions FGM and that there is no law prohibiting FGM in Kenya (ibid.). Country Reports 1999 adds that although "President Moi issued two Presidential decreesbanning FGM, and the Government prohibits government-controlled hospitals and clinics from practising it; no law bans FGM" (Feb. 2000).

According to the FGM Website, no definite studies have been conducted on the prevalence of FGM in Africa. It estimates that 50 per cent of the Kenyan population (6,300,000) have undergone the practice (n.d.). Specific information on the age at which FGM is practised among the Kikuyu could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate. A Basic Support for Institutionalizing Child Survival (BASICS) report states that "80 percent of women above the age of 14 have undergone some type of FGM. Evidence suggests that the age of circumcision is getting younger and younger" (n.d.). Research conducted by the Reproductive Health Outlook (RHO) corroborates this information and adds that in Nyamira district, "the majority of girls are circumcised under the age of 10" (n.d.).

The information provided in this section was provided by a senior programme officer for Programme for Appropriate Technology in Heath (PATH) based in Washington, during a telephone interview (1 Aug. 2000). PATH has worked in Kenya for a long time and has conducted research on FGM in various ethnic communities including the Kikuyu.The officer explained that whether a child's parents and grandparents will suffer any social consequences as a result of refusing to circumcise their child or grandchild depends on whether they belong to a circumcising community or not (1 Aug. 2000). She explained that the Kikuyu are divided between circumcising and non-circumcising communities. She explained that non-circumcising communities tend to be situated in urban centres like Nairobi. The majority are known— within Kikuyu society—to have stopped practising FGM owing to their education and/or Christian beliefs, although a minority still practise FGM clandestinely. These may not suffer severe social consequences. However, she also said that there have been instances of forced circumcision among non-circumcising communities who shunned the practice for as long as 40 years (ibid.). An 11 April 2000 The Irish Times reported that there have been reports that a Kikuyu-dominated cult, Munguki,  has been grabbing women off the streets and "forcibly" circumcising them "in a rite which most Kikuyu families have not practised for generations." According to The Nation, Munguki "professes female circumcision and the traditional Kikuyu way of worship -praying facing Mt. Kenya. It also believes in oathing and sacrifices" (24 April 2000).

 For circumcising communities, the senior programme officer explained that the consequences will be "major." Parents and/or grandparents who refuse to have their children circumcised, including the children themselves, risk being ridiculed, spurned, and ostracised. If the parents or grandparents are elders, she explained, they will lose their social standing in the community (ibid).

No reports on whether refusal to circumcise a child would result in barring the head of a clan (Muithekahuno) from succession could be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

For historical information on the significance and function of circumcision among the Kikuyu (Gikuyu), please consult the attached document.

 This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please see below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Basic Support for Institutionalising Child Support (BASICS). n.d. "Kenya FGM: Country Achievement Summary." [Accessed: 1 Aug. 2000]

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1999. 2000. United States Department of   State. Washington, DC: United States Government Printing Office. [Accessed: 1 Aug.

Female Genital Mutilation Network. 1993. "FGM in Africa: Statistics." http://www/>[Accessed: 1 Aug. 2000]

The Irish Times. 11 April 2000. Paul Harris. "Kenyans Flock to New Mau Mau Cult That

Programme for Appropriate Technology in Health (PATH), Washington, DC. Telephone interview with Senior Programme Officer.

Reproductive Heath Outlook (RHO). "Harmful Health Traditional Practices: Program Examples." [Accessed: 1 August 2000]

The Nation [Nairobi]. 24 April 2000. Ken Opala. "The Shadowy World of Mungiki." (Africa News/NEXIS)

_____. 5 January 2000. Henry Maina and Kwamboka Oyaro. "Escaping the Knife with Honour."

[Accessed 8 May 2000]

Additional Sources Consulted

Africa Confidential [London]. 1999-2000

Africa Research Bulletin: Political, Social and Cultural Series [Oxford. 1999-2000.

The Indian Ocean Newsletter [Paris]. 1999-2000.

Keesing's Record of World Events [Cambridge].

Resource Centre. Country File. Kenya. 1998-2000.

Female Genital Mutilation Network (FGMnetwork). "Name of the Custom." [Accessed: 1 Aug. 2000]

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Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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