Last Updated: Thursday, 23 September 2021, 16:06 GMT

Kenya: The practice of female genital mutilation (FGM); the prevalence of FGM among specific ethnic groups; state protection available to victims (2005 - October 2007)

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa
Publication Date 25 October 2007
Citation / Document Symbol KEN102625.E
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Kenya: The practice of female genital mutilation (FGM); the prevalence of FGM among specific ethnic groups; state protection available to victims (2005 - October 2007), 25 October 2007, KEN102625.E, available at: [accessed 27 September 2021]
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.

The prevalence rate of female genital mutilation (FGM) varies by ethnic group (UN 22 Mar. 2005; Eke June 2006, 6). The United Nations (UN) Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN) states that activists opposed to FGM estimate that 32 percent of women in over half of Kenya's districts have undergone FGM and that such estimates can go as high as 98 percent for the northeastern region of the country (UN 30 Mar. 2007; see also FGC Education and Networking Project n.d.). Specifically, the Population Council, an international non-governmental organization that conducts research on reproductive health and other population issues (n.d.), reports that 96 percent of women in the Abagusii community have been subjected to FGM (Feb. 2007). According to other sources, 97 percent of women in the Somali ethnic group have undergone FGM (The Dominion 11 Feb. 2005) and 99 percent of women in the Embu ethnic group have experienced it (Eke June 2006, 6). An article by IRIN further states that over 80 percent of women in the Maasai community have undergone FGM (UN 9 Mar. 2005). The UN's Population Fund (UNFPA) also notes that members of the Pokots community continue to perform FGM (UN 9 Sept. 2005). However, the practice is "unheard of" in the Luo and Luhya communities (UN 9 Mar. 2005).

The UN Special Rapporteur, who examines the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people, states in his report on a December 2006 mission to Kenya, that FGM is still "practised widely among numerous indigenous communities such as the Maasai, Samburu, Somali and Pokot, as part of the culturally sanctioned rites of passage" (UN 26 Feb. 2007, Para. 79). The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) states that, even though the practice has declined across the country, FGM is still practised in 60 of Kenya's 75 districts (UN 24 Aug. 2006) while an article in The Nation indicates that approximately 75 percent of Kenya communities practise FGM (10 Dec. 2005).

State protection

In 2001, Kenya passed the Children's Act, 2001 which protects children from harmful cultural rites and which specifically states:

No person shall subject a child to female circumcision, early marriage or other cultural rites, customs or traditional practices that are likely to negatively affect the child's life, health, social welfare, dignity or physical or psychological development. (Kenya 2001, Sec. 14)

However, some activists are critical that the legislation protects only children under the age of 18 years old and there is no legal protection for women over the age of 18 years (Women's eNews 8 Feb. 2005; UN 29 Apr. 2005, Para. 12; The Nation 10 Dec. 2005). An article by IRIN indicates that Kenya has signed the 2005 Maputo Protocol, which explicitly prohibits FGM (UN 30 Mar. 2007). IRIN observes that even though there is legislation against FGM, the practice remains widespread and the law is rarely enforced (UN 22 Mar. 2005). In addition, the legislation has sometimes driven FGM underground instead of reducing it (The Nation 10 Dec. 2005; UN 22 Mar. 2005) and as a consequence, many women may avoid seeking proper medical care if they suffer complications (ibid.). Amnesty International (AI) reports that the Sexual Offences Act 2006 was passed in May 2006 but AI notes that it does not criminalize forced FGM (2007).

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2006 provides the following examples of arrests for FGM: in December 2005, four parents and a man were arrested for performing FGM, also one woman entered a guilty plea to performing FGM on four girls, and the Commissioner of the Kuria district asked the police to arrest parents who had forced their daughters to be subjected to FGM; in January 2006, police arrested parents who forced their daughter to undergo FGM (US 6 Mar. 2007, Sec. 5). IRIN reports that Muslim leaders in northeastern Kenya are speaking out against FGM (UN 30 Mar. 2007). The government has also been promoting public awareness and the use of alternative rites in addition to developing education campaigns in its struggle against FGM (UN 22 Mar. 2005). The Minister of Gender, Sports, Culture and Social Services has publicly stated support for eradicating "retrogressive" practices like FGM (Kenya n.d.).

Country Reports 2006 also mentions that FGM is usually performed on young girls and that even though non-governmental organizations and some churches provide shelter to those fleeing the practice, community elders often intervene to ensure that FGM is performed (US 6 Mar. 2007, Sec. 5). This source also indicates that women who have not undergone FGM are often socially stigmatized (ibid.). In April 2005, police officials removed 17 girls against their will from a shelter in Eldoret and returned them to their respective villages (ibid.). Country Reports 2006 also mentions that three years after they fled their homes to evade FGM, 20 other girls are still living in hiding with the assistance of a church (ibid.).

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 for refugee protection. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Amnesty International (AI). 2007. "Kenya." Amnesty International Report 2007. [Accessed 27 Sept. 2007]

The Dominion [Montréal]. 11 February 2005. Gemma Richardson. "Ending Female Genital Mutilation? Rights, Medicalization, and the State of Ongoing Struggle to Eliminate the FGM in Kenya." [Accessed 1 Oct. 2007]

Eke, Ndubuisi and Kanu E.O. Nkanginieme. June 2006. Vol. 367, No. 9525. "Female Genital Mutilation and Obstetric Outcome: WHO Collaborative Prospective Study in Six African Countries." The Lancet. London. (World Health Organization) [Accessed 2 Oct. 2007]

The Female Genital Cutting Education and Networking Project (FGC Education and Networking Project). N.d. H.L. Dietrich. "FGC Around the World." [Accessed 1 Oct. 2007]

Kenya. 2001. Children's Act, 2001. (Laws of Kenya) [Accessed 26 Sept. 2007]
_____. N.d. Ministry of Gender, Sports, Culture and Social Services. "Introduction." [Accessed 1 Oct. 2007]

The Nation [Nairobi]. 10 December 2005. Bertha Kang'oi'oi. "Heritage of Human Rights Abuse?" (Factiva)

Population Council. February 2007. "Kenya: Mobilize Health Care Providers to Advocate Against FGM/C." [Accessed 1 Oct. 2007]
_____. N.d. "About the Population Council." [Accessed 15 Oct. 2007]

United Nations (UN). 30 March 2007. Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN). "Kenya: Religious Leaders Join Anti-FGM Fight." [Accessed 27 Sept. 2007]
_____. 26 February 2007. Human Rights Council. "Report of the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of Indigenous People, Rodolfo Stavenhagen." (A/HRC/4/32/Add.3) [Accessed 1 Oct. 2007]
_____. 24 August 2006. Malini Morzaria and Zeinab Ahmed. United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). "Kenya: Education and Awareness Make Progress against Female Genital Cutting in Kenya." [Accessed 28 Sept. 2007]
_____. 9 September 2005. United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). "A Safe Haven for Girls Escaping Harm in Kenya." [Accessed 2 Oct. 2007]
_____. 29 April 2005. International Convenant on Civil and Political Rights. "Concluding Observations of the Human Rights Committee." (CCPR/CO/83/KEN) [Accessed 28 Sept. 2007]
_____. 22 March 2005. Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN). "Kenya: A Case Study of Modern Legislation against Cultural Identity." [Accessed 27 Sept. 2007]
_____. 9 March 2005. Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN). "Global - Female Genital Mutilation: A Review of Legislation." [Accessed 27 Sept. 2007]

United States (US). 6 March 2007. Department of State. "Kenya." Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2006. [Accessed 27 Sept. 2007]

Women's eNews. 8 February 2005. Ochieng' Ogodo. "FGM in Kenya: Outlawed, not Eradicated." [Accessed 27 Sept. 2007]

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources: Attempts to contact the Child Rights Advisory Documentation and Legal Centre (CRADLE) and the Federation of Women Lawyers Kenya (FIDA-Kenya) were unsuccessful.

Maendeleo Ya Wanawake Organization (MYWO), the Coalition on Violence against Women (COVAW) - Kenya, a project coordinator at the Universities of Nairobi, Illinois and Manitoba (UNIM) and the Association of Media Women in Kenya (AMWIK) did not provide information within the time constraints of this Response.

Internet sites, including: Association of Media Women in Kenya (AMWIK), British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), European Country of Origin Information Network (, Foundation for Women's Health Research and Development (FORWARD), Freedom House, Human Rights Watch (HRW), Inter-African Committee on Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children, Maendeleo Ya Wanawake Organization (MYWO), Ministry of Health, Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Network against Harmful Traditions (NAHT), Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), United Kingdom Home Office.

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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