Proponents of Female Genital Cutting in Kenya Promoting It as HIV Prevention Method
Some proponents of female genital cutting in Kisii, Kenya, are claiming that the practice will reduce a woman's risk of contracting HIV, IRIN/PlusNews reports. These proponents say FGC prevents HIV because women will have reduced sexual desire after it is performed, resulting in fewer sexual partners and a decreased risk for contracting the virus. Researchers have challenged the notion that there is a difference sexual desire among women who have undergone FGC with those who have not, IRIN/PlusNews reports. After FGC was outlawed for girls younger than age 18, local residents say that proponents of the procedure have become "even more aggressive in their efforts to keep [FGC] alive." Jacqueline Mogaka, a local advocate against FGC, said, "I do not know where this idea of female genital mutilation being a remedy for HIV infection originated, but it is a strong belief" in Kisii, adding, "Young girls are now even voluntarily turning up for the cut because of this belief."
Despite being against Ministry of Health policy, FGC still is widespread in Kisii, with 97% of girls undergoing the procedure, most commonly when they are teenagers, IRIN/PlusNews reports. Grace Kemunto, a traditional circumciser said, "When you are cut as a woman, you do not become promiscuous and it means you cannot get infected by HIV." Opponents of FGC say the assumption that women and girls are always in control of their sexual practices is false and can be harmful, according to IRIN/PlusNews. In the Nyanza province, where Kisii is located, an estimated 9% of girls are married by age 15, and 53% are married by age 19, according to data from a 2003 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey. IRIN/PlusNews reports that efforts against FGC pointed out the increased HIV risk with traditional methods such as a single cutting device used on multiple women. However, this lead to an increase in nurses and midwives performing the procedure, which opponents indicate is "holding back the fight against FGC because the practice was no longer associated with a fear of HIV," IRIN/PlusNews reports. The practice also poses a risk of hemorrhaging -- during the procedure or childbirth, as well as from vaginal tearing during sexual intercourse -- that could lead to a need for blood transfusions in regions where a safe blood supply is not guaranteed, according to IRIN/PlusNews (IRIN/PlusNews, 1/27).