1.1 Research Problem
What are the impacts of the Church towards the eradication of Female Genital Mutilation? Female Genital Mutilation is the cutting of some female genital parts either as a religious act or communal activity that is viewed as a way of restraining females’ sexual behaviors and enhancing beauty. This act is executed by sharp cutting equipment mostly to young girls below six years. On the contrary, the steps in carrying out these activities vary from different communities in different countries since each community uses its methods in the genital cutting. Although different steps are used by different people in Female Genital Mutilation, they all come to the last step, which is called infibulation (Rahman & Toubia., 2000). This is where a tiny opening is left to facilitate the flow of urine and menstrual fluids while the sexual organ is stretched to enhance sexual activities and further to facilitate the birth process after cutting the outward sexual parts.
1.2 Problem Statement
Although some communities view Female Genital Mutilation as a religious activity, churches oppose these activities in great pressure and strongly condemn it by sending the missionaries to preach against it i.e., Marion Scott Stevenson, a missionary from the Church of Scotland. Although the scriptures of the Bible do not give its views on Female Genital Mutilation, the Church plays a big role in stopping the widespread activities by using several technical ways. I hereby conduct this research since Female Genital Mutilation acts are rapidly increasing, especially in African countries, leading to poor health or even death of the people subjected to the inhuman activities. I am also driven by the fact that solutions which can be drawn from this research can be used as a reference by the coming generations being more accurate and highly reliable. Through this research, the general impacts of Female Genital Mutilation shall be kept open and also possible solutions on how to eradicate the acts will be covered. In this research, my audience will be the Church at large and the communities that practice genital cutting in women up to the current period.
5.0 BACKGROUND AND ORIGIN OF FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION
There are many theories about the origination of Female Genital Mutilation as described by different researchers. In most communities involved in these acts, female circumcision, as it is described, is related to some cultural beliefs, social norms, social class status, and also a rite of passage. Some elderly women in these communities do the acts to their children, viewing it as a source of honor and as a way of saving them from social discrimination in the community. These ideas are passed from the elders to the children centuries after centuries and are backed up by lack of education, poor lifestyles due to lack of funds and more so lack of good facilities like hospitals. Female Genital Mutilation was first known as Female Circumcision then after it was renamed Female Mutilation after a series of meaningful changes in the naming during the transition. Apart from the fact that the history of Female Genital Mutilation is not well described, it started about three thousand years ago in ancient Egypt to differentiate the people born in the high social class families and wealthy families from the other ordinary people since some spots of infibulation are still evident on the Egyptian bodies stored in the pyramids as found by the researchers from Greece. At some point, people found no meaningful advantage in virginity hence decided to advance through infibulation which rapidly grew over the years (Banks et al., 2006). This act was to contain women’s sexual behavior and fix it in their desired way. Different communities advanced differently in women circumcision e.g., the Romans tried fixing some rings on the labia of their female forced workers to curb the rate of conception while the Scoptsi sect, a Russian group, initiated Female Genital Mutilation to keep the women away from sexual acts before they even engage in them. The act which was most common among Muslims was borrowed by the Christians in Egypt, transferred to the Orthodox believers in Ethiopia, which later spread to the mass congregations of Kenya and Sudan. Although this act has managed to spread rapidly in different parts of the world, researchers could not find a specific religion that wholly supports Female Circumcision or even be the main roots of the cutting activities. Christian missionaries in the affected countries like Kenya began a serious war on Female Genital Mutilation by publishing books against them in different native languages. A motion “put it among you or leave the church” (Reverend., 1922) was started and was backed up by many Christians. The published booklets were distributed to the locals in 1923 after being edited by literate Christian missionaries like Dr. Philips and Dr. Jones. Unfortunately, some communities offered resistance to the new system being injected by the missionaries. The Christian missionaries tried educating the people in different communities on how to read and understand the books, but the society took it as further colonialization and formed associations to fight the missionaries (World Health Organization., 1997). The Church at those times fought Female Genital Mutilation through negotiations and trying to make the communities aware of its effects, but the locals viewed it as the missionaries tried to wipe out their traditions and beliefs while they installed their new ways of life which were some kind of oppression.
Researchers such as Van Der Kwaak 1992, Meinardus 1967 and Hicks 1996, tried linking the origin of Female Genital Mutilation to have some certain similarity to that of the male circumcision. Some argue that the historical awareness of the acts has no impact on the current knowledge of the activities. “Knowledge of these custom’s remote historical origins does not contribute to the understanding of its present significance” (Janice., 1982). She is backed up by Ellen Greenbaum 1996, who says that current problems should be explained according to their current impacts to the society. Gerry Mackie, a political science specialist, argues that Female Genital Mutilation originated from Meroe, currently Sudan, where female forced workers were infibulated to prevent them from getting pregnant. Other World Health Organization writers like Dorkeeno 1994 claim that female circumcision originated on its own from African groups with a certain traditional belief as a female transition from a girl to a woman. Lightfoot-Klein 1989 also emphasized that the cutting practices were stimulated by issues to do with virginity and also honor among a community that is up to date carried by the Islam-Arabic traditions which are opposed by Gerry Mackie saying that female surgery emerged independently from one source and was integrated with other activities during the rites of passage. Robert Thomas, a British doctor in 1813, said that Female Genital Mutilation could be used to treat nymphomania, which was excessive masturbation. This was further proven by Karl Ferdinand von Graefe 1822 in Berlin, Germany when he treated a fifteen-year-old girl who suffered heavy masturbation. This act was continuously performed by different doctors e.g., Isaac Baker Brown, founder of St. Mary’s Hospital in 1845, J. Marion Sims in 1862 following Bakers steps and advancements. Baker was later accused of forging medical knowledge in London and was expelled from the council of doctors dealing with children’s birth.
3.O PRELIMINARY LITERATURE REVIEW
Many previous researchers are more concerned with the effects of Female Genital Mutilation but do not pay attention to the effects of the Church on it and even the role played by the Church at large to stop female circumcision. Previous research reveals that the church can help in abolishing female cutting in different ways.
Replacing Female Cutting with another rite of passage.
The church can find another rite of passage that can be attended to by the girls subjected to female surgery. This can be initiated by cutting the ties while comparing male circumcision and female surgery. They should advocate for male circumcision practices to e undertaken by proper medical personnel.
Support the government’s law on abolishment of female surgery.
The church ensures laws concerning Female Genital Mutilation are followed by the general public. They report cases of the illegal actions to the law enforcement officers whereby the participants face its consequences. These people are arrested and can be rectified by the law.
Ensure good relationship through collaboration with other denominations.
Unity is key in winning the fight against female cutting in the affected areas. Due to this, the church creates a bond with other religions e.g. Muslims to help in covering a wide area during their fight. This also makes all religions speak one voice, the voice of curbing Female Genital Mutilation.
Being the rescue center for the Female Cutting victims.
The church starts by helping those who have been subjected to illegal cutting in different ways. These can be giving them shelter, food or education. This shows the church’s care to the society while they still try to pass a message on the effects of female cutting. The victims feel sympathized hence testifies to her colleagues the path to be taken for a better well-being.
Challenge Female Cutting using the Holy Book.
Although many religions say that the act of cutting girls’ genitals is not mentioned in the holy book, these acts can be challenged when the church gives Bible teachings to the society. This is evident in the book of Romans which said that circumcision should be done to the soul but not the body because it is a spiritual act. These teachings can help in the transformation of a society even though not greatly.
In my research, I explain the procedures used by the church in fighting female surgery with a direct influence to the victims, which has been a gap in the Female Genital Mutilation researches since this area has not been explored by any researcher. With all the researchers having focused on other areas, impacts of the Church on each individual in the affected society were forgotten hence the urge to exploit this field.
4.0 RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
To meet my objectives, I visited different churches in North Eastern Kenya, where many locals practiced Female Genital Mutilation mostly and had a direct interview with the pastors and Bishops. In an interview with Joseph Ole Silent, a Reverend of the Anglican Church in Moyale, he said that through the Church, the villagers are given formal education where they are taught how to read and write hence unknowingly giving them a chance to get access to books that show the negative results caused by Female Genital Mutilation. He also emphasized that having the Church as a platform to unite the society, they further brought a missionary hospital whereby they practically offer better health care to the civilians and show them the dangers of cutting girls’ genitalia. We took the discussion further, and I posed several questions to him concerning the problem facing the community and the younger women at large. “What do you do in case a young girl reports a case of attempted circumcision to you as a reverend? Since you started preaching against Female Genital Mutilation, are there any changes? Are there seasons of the year that these activities mainly increase, and how do you contain the situation as a church during the peak season? Since the North-Eastern part of Kenya contains both Muslims and Christians, how do you manage to create awareness for the Muslims? In the interview, Mr. Joseph said that in case a child reports a case of attempted circumcision to the Church, they would work hand in hand with the police. The church leaders would be accompanied by the police back to the child’s home, where they will try educating the parents on the importance of formal education and also explain to them how genital mutilation can affect the girl’s life. More so, the Church works with the literate community members like politicians in spreading awareness so that the people of the community practicing the act can be comfortable hearing from one of them and have a sense of belonging (Ogunsiji et al., 2007). To counter genital mutilation, he said that the Church sponsors many youths, especially girls, for higher education to enhance gender equality, and when the girl gets back after studies, she can share the knowledge on a better lifestyle to the community. “This helps in a slow transitioning of the whole community since we fight the huge disaster through eradicating poverty in the village, countering illiteracy, and try to wash out the traditional myths and beliefs that are the many propellers of Female Genital Mutilation,” he said.
I had another interview with Samuel Mbadi Koech, a Bishop of the Catholic Church of Narok, who was also born and bred in Entasekera, Narok County, where Female Genital Mutilation is widely practiced. He revealed that he also grew up viewing genital cutting as a rite of passage, but after he attended school, he saw the need to change the trend since he witnessed many lives being lost through it and knows it is just a disbelief. Bishop Samuel, unlike Reverend Joseph, refocuses on educating mostly the elders on the dangers of female genital surgery. Through the seminarians, they offer door to door services, telling them the dangers of genital mutilation without criticism and try substituting it with formal studies. He further continues by saying to make that more effective; they use the people who know the Kalenjin language or even people who are familiar with the community in the approach to create a picture of “if they are one of us and they are transformed positively according to how they speak, let’s try turning to their way” into the locals’ minds. The Church also provides advanced electronic equipment like televisions to different households, with programs that create awareness on Female Genital Mutilation so that the villagers can watch and learn new ways as they entertain themselves. More so, Bishop Samuel and his team of seminarians would attend the village ceremonies and also fund some of them to show unity and their support to the society. This helps transform the society since they become role models to the people, and the locals try changing their ways to fit in the new advanced society. They also ensured the adults were busy with new innovative activities e.g., bringing fertilizers for the elderly farmers to use in their farms hence bringing development in farming. “This helped in some way since the villagers would spend their days in important activities like planting, weeding and harvesting instead of piling in groups and maybe gather for drinks which would lead to the evil and problematic talks like the genital cutting. As we know, an idle mind is the devil’s workshop,” he said. “After the farming period they bring some of the harvests to church, we rejoice and plan how to move forward hence creating a bond and a major platform to pass the advice and communicate to them about Female Genital Mutilation in an organized way in which they can see as helpful.” He concluded that the best way he used to advocate against the cutting practices was through unity since the best form of attacking is just to defend.
I also administered questionnaires to some villagers of Narosuka, a village in Narok, where Female Genital Mutilation is also common, which had moderate. In the questionnaire that my main audience was to be adult citizens of the age between twenty-five to thirty-five, I had open-ended questions and closed-end questions, which were both in English and Kiswahili just for surety. I asked for the views of the citizens on how the Church helps them in getting rid of Female Genital Mutilation. Would they want to stop Female Genital Mutilation? If maybe it lands on a parent, do you have a daughter? Has she undergone genital cutting? If no, has the Church impacted on you as a parent changing your view on the practice? Which Church do you attend to? What is its view on genital surgery? Do they think it’s necessary to increase the number of churches in the area as a way of fighting the practice of Female Cutting? What is the condition of the practice ever since the Church came as a way of curbing the practice? Is it increasing or decreasing? And lastly, I asked for the subject’s personal view on Female Genital Mutilation. After giving out the questionnaire, I gave one week for complete assessment and circulation, after which I was to go for the copies at the village elder’s office. To my findings, three-quarters of the people were happy with the progress the Church was making on curbing Female Cutting (Alsibiani & Rouzi., 2010). The rate of Female Genital Mutilation on households that go to Church was almost zero, and overall, it had greatly decreased due to the transition from the old times. Some of the locals praised the awareness created through the modern technological equipment brought by the Church e.g., televisions that showed the dangers of genital cutting acts and explained the loss it brings over the benefits. Most of them appreciated Western education, which was enhanced by the Church, which led to gender equality, allowing the modern literate girl to speak out her mind.
The villagers also said that by the Church’s support through teaching them on better and healthy marriages, infant mortality rates as a result of Female Genital Mutilation has greatly reduced. Infertility rates in women are now a passing glance to the community, and many people appreciate the war fought by the Church. On the other quarter, some of the locals could not understand the writings due to maybe lack of education hence gave irrelevant feedbacks. Other copies went to waste and were never returned to the center (Oloo et al., 2011). A small proportion, however, supported Female Genital Mutilation and had a strong belief in their culture hence could not let go of the acts. However, this group could not justify the reasons as to why they are holding on to the culture strongly.
I travelled to Nkasuria village in the far East Narok, where I met Madam Mercy Aitong, a lady who was a professional in the field of female circumcision and is now a village councilor. I interviewed her for four hours on how she used to conduct her duties in circumcising the young girls. Is she a believer in any church? How did she start her work? Why did she stop administering Female Genital Mutilation? Did the Church play any role in changing her lifestyle? If it did, how did the Church transform her?
She said that she was the head of all the circumcision activities in Nkasuria, and she was the one to do the cutting on every girl in the village. She inherited the duty from her mother, who anointed her to be in charge of it, and all the villagers accepted, saying it was her calling. “In 2010, life became more advanced, and people started fighting against Female Genital Mutilation, and truly, we used to do it forcefully”, she said. She was sued by the Presbyterian Church and was imprisoned for Female Genital Mutilation after she accepted to be guilty (Hosken, 1979). While in prison, she joined the Church choir and got involved in the Christian Union, where she diversified her life and took another course. She was guided by the Church and found out it was wrong circumcising the girl child unwillingly. She was later released, and she went back to the village preaching against Female Genital Mutilation. All by herself, she managed to change many people’s lives and has saved many youths from genital cutting after her lifestyle adjustment to the better side with the help of the Church. She is a current believer of the Presbyterian Church and helps in fighting the actions being a testimony and one of the villagers who was affected by the Female Genital Mutilation problem.
Throughout my research that I conducted in three months; I have encountered different problems that would have some impacts on my findings. I have only travelled to the Kalenjin parts that have a Female Genital Mutilation history; hence my findings are limited to the Kalenjin community but not to all the communities participating in the genital cutting practices at large (Caldwell et al., 2000). I also had a problem in communication since many people in my subject of study mainly converse in their native language, which I could not understand hence poor communication. It was also costly moving from one place to another hence the need to focus on a single community constrained around a single location.
The Church has got more positive effects in washing away Female Genital Mutilation from different communities according to my research. The communities affected by the genital cutting problem have been positively impacted by the presence of a church in different ways, as discussed.