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Boni elders demand FGM ‘to tame teen pregnancies’



While the rest of the civilised world continues to admonish, denounce and rebuke female genital mutiliation, one community in Lamu county actually wants it legalised following the spike in teenage pregnancies.

The Boni minority community, who are among Kenya’s last forest communities, dispute claims it causes immense suffering and insist it has a good side to it.

Elders from the Boni community are now seeking to formally reintroduce FGM, arguing that lack of it has greatly eroded morals among their women and girls.

They say teen pregnancies and divorces were unheard of when FGM was practiced.

For years, FGM was considered a rite of passage for any Boni woman who desired to ever settle down and get married. Men from this community are known to shun uncut girls and only insisted on those who had undergone the rite.

The common belief has been that female circumcision serves to tame women’s libido, so that when they marry, they don’t have to worry about their wives straying.

The FGM was also meant to maintain moral uprightness among girls as they were readied to become wives and mothers.


Ali Gubo, chair of the Boni council of elders, says for decades, marriages in the community have survived the test of time thanks to the cut.

However, due to the immense anti-FGM campaigns across the country, the community has been unable to carry out the ritual, while those who still have the guts to, do it secretly.

Gubo says the repercussions of not having the cut are already being felt all across the community, with increased divorce rates and a rise in immorality among girls and married women.

“For us, this wasn’t just any cut. It was a way of ensuring sanity in our community. It was the surest way of ensuring marriages last and future generations get to inherit honour and uprightness,” Gubo says.

“But that has immensely changed since we are no longer allowed to circumcise our girls. The situation is turning our honor as the Boni community into an unpalatable and unpleasant tag.”

These elders are now calling upon the government to not just allow them carry on with FGM but also support them in conducting it on their women, believing it will save the community from moral decadence.

For decades, Boni girls as young as five have undergone the cut as a way of preparing them for moral uprightness in a world believed to be full of moral decadence.

Areas where the cut is treasured among the Boni include Milimani, Mararani, Mangai, Pandanguo and Basuba wards. The ritual usually takes place during school holidays, when the girls are lured into the practice by parents, community leaders and other women who have undergone the cut.

The practice, commonly referred to as ‘likin’, is done using assorted paraphernalia, among them traditional knives and razors.


According to the Bargoni Primary School headmaster Mohamed Ahmed, almost every single Boni girl at the school has already undergone the cut.

“A five-year-old kindergarten pupil will tell you they are already women. When you ask them why, they say it’s because they were circumcised. It makes them women and gives them the green light to engage in sex and even begin thinking of marriage at an early age,” Ahmed said.

He said most young girls are forced to miss school for many months since the healing process takes long, while many others wait for the holidays to come so they, too, can face the cut.

Elder Gubo, however, argues that the cut is an integral part of their culture as a forest community. He feels they have a right to carry on with it.

Shuo Msuo, another elder, blames the increased divorce rates among the community on the fact that women no longer undergo the cut, making them prone to ill morals that eventually wreck their homes and marriages.

Msuo says in past years, women from the community were the best homemakers around the region. But with time and as the war on FGM began, their women have become the wildest and are normally the cause of almost all divorce cases among the Boni.

“We are at a point where we feel we must do something to recover our glory as a community, and that lies in having our women face the cut. The immorality we witness is just too much,” Msuo says.

“We must do something so that this community can once again boost proper morals. We need the government to allow us do this and also support us. This is our culture. It’s not just a cut, its our way of life.”

The elders say it is not fair for the government to issue a ‘blanket ban’ on the cut, since they believe many women and girls are still interested in undergoing the rite of passage.

Elder Kaltun Shure admitted that the community still conducts the cut on many girls who are still willing.

“We have many women and girls who don’t care what the anti-FGM campaigns are about because they understand we have a culture to observe. These women still understand the need for the cut and have been undergoing the same secretly. We can’t say no because it’s our life. We are proud that our men still feel that way and that means we are in this battle together,” Shure said.

“Not every Boni woman doesn’t want the cut. In fact, many prefer to undergo the cut. It gives them a feeling of maturity and completion. Those who haven’t will tell you how uncomfortable it is. We are not afraid because this is who we are.


However, it has been established that many girls who undergo the cut never get to finish school. Most get married almost immediately afterwards, mostly to older men fit to be their fathers and grandfathers.

Boni women who spoke on the matter differed with the elders. They insisted that the act has long been overtaken by time, and that it is rather time to encourage women and girls to pursue more productive activities in life like education.

Amina Barufa, a married mother of four, says: “Those claiming that women are now immoral since FGM was banned should ask themselves why women are that way. It all boils down to how someone has been raised and the environment they grew in. It has nothing to do with being cut or uncut. It’s a non-issue if you ask me. Girls should be encouraged to go to school and become something.”

Gaera Hirji, who lost her daughter to the cut four years ago, says she would never allow any of her other younger daughters to undergone the same, at least not with her knowledge.

She admitted that many girls, however, run to undergo the practice secretly at the homes of the ‘circumcisers’, without the knowledge or permission of their parents, and especially mothers who are slowly uniting against the practice.

“My daughter had just sat her KCPE exam back in 2014 and had passed well, something that isn’t quite common here, since our girls are never encouraged to stay in school,” Hirji recalls.

“I was looking forward to sending her to secondary school. My brother had agreed to pay her fees. She just came home one evening and said she was sorry she had undergone the cut. She was crying but most of all I could see she was bleeding and was pale. By morning she was dead. I have never gotten over it.”

She wishes women from the community would join hands and encourage their daughters to see the brighter side in life, which includes a good education and a better life thereafter.

“Sometimes you know what to do but because you are alone, you feel hopeless. It’s basically the women against what the men want. It should be clear that many women here don’t want these anymore, but we are powerless and lack the empowerment,” Hirji said.

Hindi Ward MCA Anab Hajji, who comes from the Orma minority community, says they have been able and are still actively creating awareness on the dark side of FGM.

“We go round and tell them that what they believe is right is actually wrong and unfair to the girls, no matter how long it has been happening. It’s tough to have people just drop something like that overnight, but they are slowly coming around,” she said.




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