Knowledge and perceptions of complications associated with female genital mutilation/cutting among the Somali Community in Wajir County, Kenya
Objective: To assess knowledge and perceptions of complications associated with female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) and why it is practiced.
Design: Cross-sectional study using mixed methods. Structured questionnaires focus group discussions (FGDs), and key informant interviews (KIIs) were used to collect data.
Setting: Waqberi Ward, Wajir County, Kenya.
Participants: Adult members of the Somali community and staff of community based, and non- governmental organisations involved in the fight against FGM/C
Main Outcome Measures: For quantitative data, frequencies and proportions were computed, and chi-square tests used to assess associations. Qualitative data were organised into relevant sub-themes.
Results: Six FGDs each with an average of seven participants, and 14 KIIs were conducted. Of the 240 participants in the quantitative component, 85.4% were aware of complications of FGM/C. Female, married and rural participants were more aware. Complications were attributed to bad luck, breach of cultural/religious requirements, the will of God and circumciser negligence, but not FGM/C. An increase in type II FGM/C was observed. Reasons for the practice included culture, a rite of passage, religion, fear of being ostracised, lack of political goodwill and that it improves marriageability. Among those aged 18-44 years, 53.7% intend to continue with the practice, citing culture and religion.
Conclusion: There is a shift from type III to type II FGM/C but not abandonment of the practice altogether despite widespread awareness of associated complications. Main reasons for the practice are religion and culture; therefore, religious and community leaders can positively contribute in eradicating the practice if engaged.