Legislation against girl circumcision: A Cultural psychological understanding of prohibition
In Kenya, the Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act1 was passed in 2011. This law calls for a complete ban on girl circumcision. Community policing structures are in place to help with enforcing these and other laws. The rationale for the abolition of girl circumcision, usually constructed as female genital mutilation (FGM) to imply unnecessary damage to the female genital organs, is based on an articulated stance backed by universal human rights and medical reporting. From this perspective, it makes perfect sense to work on policies, regulations and rules that prohibit girl circumcision and make people aware of the negative health consequences of this practice. Change, however, is not just a matter of activating rules and having good arguments. Since 2009, Amref Health Africa pinned its hopes on alternative rites of passage (ARP) to account for affective aspects of girl circumcision. ARP is intended as a rite that mimics the original one, but without “the cut” and without the girls having to be married.
In 2016, we conducted qualitative research into the changeability of girl circumcision and ARP’s cultural embeddedness amongst Maasai and Samburu communities in Kenya. We needed a framework that enabled us to map opposing perspectives, legal and those off the record, and integrate that with how people themselves make sense of their lives.