WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT! The practice of female genital mutilation was banned three years ago in Kenya, but the practice of circumcising girls is still widespread in many rural parts of the country. Reuters photographer Siegfried Modola captured on camera, in graphic details, the ceremony held for four girls of the Pokot tribe.
The practice of female circumcision is seen as a rite of passage which marks a girl’s transition to womanhood and is required before she can marry. According to United Nations data, more than a quarter of Kenyan women in Kenya have undergone the procedure.
The images show the girls covered in animal skin, with their faces and bodies painted in white. Following the procedure, the girls, visibly in pain and crying, sit on large stones. The father of one of the girls, who asked not to be named for fears of reprisal from the authorities, told Reuters:
It’s a tradition that has been happening forever. The girls are circumcised to get married. It’s a girl’s transition into womanhood.
The girls spent the night huddled around a fire, as local women sang and danced in support.
1. One of the young girls, covered in an animal skin, cries after being circumcised. The practice was outlawed three years ago.
2. Four young Pokot girls stand outside one of the girl’s homes just before the beginning of their circumcision ceremony.
3. After the ceremony, the girls, now covered in animal skins and beaded necklaces, walk to where they will rest after the tribal ritual.
4. After the ritual, the girls faces are painted white to show they have been circumcised and transitioned into womanhood.
The mother of one of the girls said she believes it is a sign of strength. She told Reuters after her daughter was circumcised:
The pain will make her strong. She can show the rest of the community that she can endure it. I’m proud of my daughter for doing this.
Female genital mutilation involves, at its most extreme, the cutting off of the clitoris and external genitalia. The vagina is then stitched to reduce a woman’s sexual desire. Razor blades are usually used in the procedure, but using broken glass and scissors has also been documented.
5. One girl, after her ceremony, walks to a resting place covered in an animal skin in the remote village of Pokot in Baringo County.
6. Despite a government ban on the practice, circumcision remains a rite of passage, particularly among poor families in rural areas.
7. Village elders cover a young girl’s face in white paint after she is circumcised, a requirement for young girls before they can marry.
8. More than a quarter of women in Kenya have been circumcised, despite the government making the practice illegal in 2011.
9. Draped in animal skins, the Pokot girls sit naked on rocks before village elders perform the ritual.
10. The Pokot girls wait in their homes to be circumcised. One father said: ‘It’s a tradition that has been happening forever’.
11. Members of the Pokot tribe gather round a fire before the ceremony, about 50 MILES from the town of Marigat in Baringo County.
12. Kenyan law gives life imprisonment when a girl dies from the procedure, which can cause hemorrhage, shock and complications in childbirth.
13. A prosecution unit against genital cutting was set up in March and is currently investigating 50 cases. Pictured, the Pokot girls in a hut.
14. Pokot women place large stones where girls will be seated to undergo their circumcision rite.
15. Pokot girls are encouraged to leave their hut and make their way to a place where they will take off their clothes and wash during the ceremony.
16. Pokot girls run from their hut and make their way to a place where they will take off their clothes and wash during their circumcision ceremony.
17. Village elders push a young girl out of a hut to take her to the place where her circumcision will be performed.
18. A Pokot girl bleeds onto a rock after being circumcised in a tribal ritual. In addition to excruciating pain, can cause hemorrhage, shock and complications in childbirth.
19. After the procedure, a Pokot girl is smeared with white paint to show she has undergone the rite of passage.
20. A Pokot woman holds a razor blade after performing a circumcision on four girls. Practitioners use anything from broken glass to scissors.
21. A Pokot woman performs a circumcision on a girl in a village. Although the government has banned it, the practice is rife in rural communities.
22. More than a quarter of girls and women in Kenya have undergone genital cutting, according to United Nations data.
23. The Pokot girls, covered with animal skins, squat on rocks after being stripped naked and washed during their circumcision rite.
24. One mother said the pain would make her daughter strong. ‘She can show the rest of the community that she can endure it’.
25. Inside a hut, the Pokot girls sit and wait for their circumcision ceremony. At its worst, the rite involves cutting off the clitoris and outer genitalia.
26. A Pokot woman falls into a trance after drinking a local brew and dancing during a female circumcision ceremony.
27. Pokot women and children rest by a fire during the early hours of the morning as they wait for the beginning of a circumcision ceremony.
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