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January 30, 2009

Kenya: Female Genital Mutilation Falsely Viewed as HIV Prevention

In Kissi, a city in western Kenya, a new troublesome HIV prevention trend is emerging—using female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) as a means to halt the AIDS epidemic, reports IRIN/PlusNews.

Removing the clitoris reduces a woman’s sexual desire, which in turn, the theory goes, makes her less sexually active and thus protects her from contracting HIV.

In 2001, Kenya’s Ministry of Health outlawed the popular practice for girls younger than 18. “I do not know where this idea of female genital mutilation being a remedy to HIV infection originated, but it is a strong belief here,” said Jacqueline Mogaka, an anti-FGM/C campaigner. “Young girls are now even voluntarily turning up for the cut because of this belief…. The proponents of this practice will die fighting.”

Many activists against the procedure believe that FGM/C gives the false sense that young girls are in charge of their sexuality and have control of their bodies, when in fact they do not. Past studies have shown that removing the clitoris actually increases the risk of contracting HIV because it causes vaginal tearing.

It is estimated that 97 percent of young girls in Kissi have undergone FGM/C.

Search: Kenya, female genital mutilation/cutting, prevention

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