Schools all over the world have been shutting down off-and-on in order to stop the spread of the deadly novel coronavirus. But while shuttered classrooms in some places is merely a headache or an inconvenience, in other areas, it means little girls are having their genitals sliced off and sewn shut in a practice called "female genital mutilation" (FGM).
FGM, also known as "the cut," is unfortunately widely prevalent in many communities, and it's often a little girl's parents and family members that force her to go under the knife. Why would anyone want to force a small child — often elementary-school aged — to have such sensitive areas of their body surgically tortured? FGM is intended to control girls' sexuality and prevent them from developing into sensual adults who might want something more than to just become incubators for their husband's babies.
While FGM has been banned in many areas of the world, during the pandemic, it's seen a resurgence in a handful of countries. Troublingly, this includes Kenya, a nation that prohibited the gruesome practice back in 2011.Sign the petition to demand that the World Health Organization (WHO) provide emergency funding to help the government of Kenya fight back against the FGM resurgence!
As schools have closed, little girls who otherwise would have been shielded by their teachers and studies have been left at home where their only value comes from their marriageability. Without academic protection, they are vulnerable to family members who have unlimited access to them and want to put them through "the cut."
On top of that, the pandemic has put families all over the world in frightening financial situations and exacerbated poverty. Child brides can fetch significant resources or money for a struggling family — and if the little girl has been subjected to FGM, she can earn an even higher price from her husband's family, as well as many gifts from her community.
Evidence is only just beginning to pour in
, but the numbers are staggering. In the approximately six weeks from September to mid-October 2020 in Kenya, somewhere around 2,800 young girls as young as 7 were genitally cut. In West Pokot County, more than 1,000 children were coerced into FGM during a spree of "mass cuttings." After that, the girls were either held back from school to slowly heal, or married off, with many becoming pregnant shortly thereafter. Teachers say their classes are shrinking as more and more girls are sliced and stitched in this way.
FGM has significant and horrifying consequences. It begins with the initial pain: many of these surgeries are performed by individuals who are not medical professionals, without proper sterilized equipment, and sometimes without anesthesia for the child.
After that, girls often have difficulty walking. They experience significant scarring, urinary issues, childbirth complications, painful sex, infections, and even death.
On top of the physical symptoms, this traumatic violence takes a psychological toll as well.
The economic downturn has meant that the Kenyan government hasn't been able to enforce its 2011 federal ban the way it originally intended to. In June 2019, President Uhuru Kenyatta pledged to completely eradicate FGM in his country by 2022 — next year. The political will is there.
But the pandemic has meant Kenyatta and his officials have needed to redirect funding to other high-priority health and economic goals.That's why we're calling on the United Nations and the World Health Organization to step in and help Kenya achieve their target of ending female genital mutilation. Tell the WHO to partner with Kenya's government and provide funding for their anti-FGM efforts!