Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) has received global attention due to the resulting devastating health problems and fatalities. FGM is widely practiced among the Samburu people. It is a difficult issue to address because it is so deeply rooted in Samburu culture. The justifications for the continuance of female circumcision include the following:
- As a rite of passage for both men and women, circumcision marks one's entry into adulthood, a path that leads to marriage and child rearing.
- Those who are circumcised are believed to be enlightened.
- Serious consequences are expected for children of uncircumcised parents, including early death, rejection from the community, and prohibition of their own circumcision.
- It is feared that ending this long-standing tradition will result in cultural erosion.
Various forms of circumcision exist. The four different classification of female circumcision are:
- "Sunna"/Clitoridectomy: a small cut of the clitoris
- Excision: a deep incision that completely removes the labia and clitoris.
- Infibulation: stitching together the labia, leaving a small hole near the urethra.
- Unclassified: includes puncturing and/or burning genitalia.
The Samburu people practice excision, which has numerous health implications including (but not limited to):
- Hemorrhage which often leads to shock, fainting, and even death.
- Complications during childbirth
- Urinary tract problems
- Pain during sex/sexual dissatisfaction
- Risk of the spread of HIV/AIDS (due to using shared razors or knives)
Circumcision also has serious social ramifications for young Samburu girls and women, which may include:
- Being removed from school prematurely; once circumcised, girls as young as ten years are expected to take on adult roles and responsibilities
- Suffering psychosocial distress and isolation if their classmates and friends are not circumcised
- Early marriage, often to much older men, and childbirth
- Risky sexual behavior, since circumcision marks one's entry into adulthood. This exacerbates the spread of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases and can result in early pregnancy and childbirth
With these risks and adverse consequences in mind, there is now a large effort to eradicate female circumcision from Samburu culture. FGM is not only increasingly scrutinized in the global arena, but is also widely discussed among the Samburu people. Women's health must be safeguarded, and all members of Samburu communities need to be informed about women's right to refuse circumcision.