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it All starts with the large metal basin of water. The evening before the ceremony, the mother puts it on the roof of the hut. Some put the axe so water is harder to cool over night. At dawn, mother wakes daughter.

At the entrance to the cabin, put it on a cowhide — all this to tell women, once subjected to ritual. The girl has to undress, then her body washed with cold water to make it less sensitive.

the Two women holding her legs, three back wraps around your upper body. Then brutallica picks up a razor blade and cut off the girl’s clitoris and sometimes the outer and inner labia, sometimes sewing up the vagina. These operations deprive girls of their childhood, dignity, it is often possible to have a baby with no pain to urinate or have sex. And sometimes the pelvis on the roof becomes a harbinger of the end of human life.

From late 2011 to carry out female circumcision in Kenya is prohibited (in the world of medical and human rights communities, the term “female circumcision” is not used c 80-ies. Usually this operation is called Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), which translated to English means “the mutilation of the female genitals” and “mutilating surgery on the female genital organs” — approx. ed.). But still women continue to be subjected to this procedure. And not only in Kenya. According to the world health organization (who), worldwide about 200 million currently living girls and women have undergone this mutilating the genitals of ritual. In the risk group annually gets three million girls.

initiation Ceremonies are held around the world. They represent the end of childhood and transition to adulthood. Sometimes it is about the shelteravih customs practiced for centuries. But today, rebelling against them, more and more people.

a Law in 2011 prohibiting in Kenya female genital mutilation genitals is one of the most stringent in Eastern Africa: at least three years in prison and a fine of $ 2,000 is threatened by those who were engaged in female circumcision. But despite this, it continues to be practiced. Especially in remote rural areas, where the authorities of a lack of resources are often unable to monitor the observance of the law. Or they do not know — since there was a law, a circumcision conducted secretly.

When travelling in these regions quickly becomes clear: the fight against female genital mutilation — it is political. But the front line in this struggle passes through the private lives of people between the mayor of the village, obligated to enforce the ban, and brutallica, earning money, between grandmothers and granddaughters, between teachers and parents.

Bloody tradition

anyone who wants to understand why girls are still being circumcised can learn it in Cilento, a village in the district Kiado Country in southern Kenya. This region is sparsely populated between the stunted trees here and there are round huts with mud walls and fences of thorns. Between the huts and stretches of sandy were given by which the shepherds chase their flocks.

According to medical surveys 2014 among the Maasai living in this region, 78% of girls and women aged 15 to 49 years have been circumcised. And this in spite of the ban, which by the time of the survey, worked for three years. And across the country this figure is 21%.

Stephen Likoma — mayor Kilonithen. His job is to enforce the laws of the state. But Likoma — Maasai and has the status of a chief in his community. That makes him a defender of cultural heritage, which for centuries treated and circumcision of girls.

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What is more important? And who should make decisions here, away from the larger political arenas? Likoma, the elder of the Maasai? Or Likoma, guardian of the law? His dual role leads to conflicts. In order to fulfil their political duties, he must enjoy the respect of their compatriots. Including people like Nalepa Pusaran working for ten years brutallica. She received this money, but that’s not all: brutallica, i.e. the keepers of tradition, the Maasai have great respect. Since circumcision, as legend has it, is the protection of the tribe.

where the ban does not work, the consequences for women are terrible. A life suffering from genital fistula, inflammation, pain when urinating, problems during sex or childbirth. For some, circumcision is becoming a serious injury, and even as adults, they remember the pain from the razor.

added To this are social problems: often, girls have been circumcised are married off, and soon they get pregnant. According to the world Bank, in 2015, approximately 20% of women aged 15 to 19 years had in Kenya children or were pregnant. Many of them after the birth of a child were forced to leave school, was in szavisimosti from their husbands and were thus in the cycle of poverty.

But at the same time, for many women the Maasai rejection of circumcision means the loss of their cultural identity. Is there a way out of this situation?


Abigail Wearable Tepeli 19 years. For this young Kenichi tradition and equality of chances, rituals and equality for girls and women, not mutually exclusive. She belongs to that generation of young women of the Maasai people, which is able to make a difference. Tapela says she is proud that she is Maasai. But circumcision for her retarded, inhumane practices.

Tepeli luck. Her life was no bowl of water on the roof. It was not cow hide at dawn. Community of her village broke with tradition and Maasai, circumcision is no longer performed. Instead, girls expect burning candles, dancing and a beauty contest — an alternative ritual of initialization. Maybe this is the solution? The key to replacing the age-old tradition?

the Idea of alternative initiation rituals is simple: as before, there is a ceremony, symbolizing the transition of girls into the category of women. Genitals they don’t maim. “After the rejection of circumcision should have no vacuum,” describes the essence of the idea one of the staff of non-governmental organizations Amref Health Africa. According to him, it should be a bright, luxurious holiday, and in the center it should be girls. “AMREF”, one of the biggest NGOs in Africa for ten years working on the implementation of new ideas. In 2009, employees of the organization visited the village of the Samburu in Northern Kenya. There has long practiced ritual, devoid of any violence. “AMREF” took this concept on Board.

But the road to alternative long ritual: how to tell employees “Amrita”, it may take years before you can convince the residents of a particular village. Here the village headman Stephen Likeme had to show the elders of Cilento video that was shown, how the circumcision. After all, men in the circumcision of their daughters are not present, and many of them just don’t know how it exactly happens. Only after much discussion they agreed that the mutilation of women’s genitals must end.

Before the ritual begins, “AMREF” invites children to workshops — first boys, then girls. To get into Cilento, some of them have several hours to go across the steppe. Some get on a bus. To a one-story school building are only country roads on the sand, the only paved road leading to a larger town, lies two hours away by car. When children are about, it comes not in the classroom about the writing and about the female body, sexuality and procreation. How is everything going?

grace Miyakoshi myself from the Maasai people, and Mwololo Kennedy Mutuku, who came from a neighboring village, helping to organize seminars and alternative ritual. They are local and this is important. Says Mutuku in the villages often experience prejudice and distrust of employees coming from the country’s capital Nairobi. And the children respond more openly if the first seminars are conducted in their language, and not in the official languages English or Swahili.

Celebration of life

After the workshops, the evening of the fourth day comes the highlight of the day: the ceremony itself. All day Devochki preparing for this very important event for them. They dance with their mothers and grandmothers, those give them jewelry, girls tied on his head a white tape, on which employees “Amrita” wrote slogans NO FGM (“No female circumcision”) or No Child Marriage (“No to child marriage”).

after dark actually starts the ceremony. The first step is a beauty contest: 78 girls participated in the summer of 2019 in the alternative ritual. Since in 2009, “AMREF” launched this program, it reached more than 16 thousand girls in Kenya and Tanzania. On similar programs of work and other organizations. They pin their main hopes with these young women like Abigail Wearable Tepee.

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in the Summer of 2018 she was voted “Miss Cilento-2018”. Since an uncircumcised woman she visits other settlements of the Masai and spends explanatory work among mothers and grandmothers, and among the girls themselves. As an Ambassador of the movement against circumcision she should be an example for girls. Tapela just graduated from school and plans to study Economics and statistics at the University.

Today in Kenya, many of these villages, as Calonita — of the settlements, where the cruel tradition was replaced with an alternative ritual and obey the law. But is that enough to achieve a breakthrough in the whole country?

Conservative traditionalists find new ways: circumcision is now performed in hygienic conditions in hospitals or local physicians to minimize serious health risks. But still the girls remain long-term mental and physical injuries. In addition, some families travel to the neighboring country where live representatives of the same ethnic group, and where the execution of the law watching through my fingers, but the laws themselves are not as strict. NGOs called this trend of Cross-Border FGM (eng. “cross-border circumcision”). For example, from the regions inhabited by the Maasai in southern Kenya, to the border with Tanzania in just one day.

Kenya has set itself an ambitious goal: in November, the country’s President Uhuru Kenyatta (Uhuru Kenyatta) said that the country intends to reduce the number of mutilating operations on the female genital organs by 2022 to zero. It’s eight years sooner than envisaged as objectives of the United Nations. Not whether there will be these words just empty? After all, and Kenyatta knows that the fight with razor blades is not finished yet. But with every uncircumcised woman, from each village, who refused circumcision, with each alternate ceremony that goal gets a little closer.

the new York times contain estimates of the solely foreign media and do not reflect the views of the editorial Board of the new York times.