Historical analysis of the changing place of female circumcision in the construction of gender roles, values and relations among the Agikuyu people in Kenya

Dr. Muriungi, C. K

Abstract

Many written documents on female circumcision among the Agikuyu people of Kenya examine the practice from a health, education and religious view point, failing to shed light on the underlying reason for its persistence amidst all the opposition that has been evident since the nineteenth century. This paper seeks to fill that gap, by examining the role of female circumcision in the construction of gender values, roles and relations among the Agikuyu people. The paper further examines the colonial and religious impact on the practice of female circumcision and demonstrates that despite the influence from these directions and the spirited campaigns from activists to stop it, the practice has only reduced and not diminished because of the value attached to it by the Agikuyu. The study uses qualitative research design and purposive and snowballing sampling procedures. It uses open ended questionnaires and interview guide as instruments of primary data collection and employs historical methods and gender theories to analyze the data. The paper concludes that the persistence of the practice is due to its deeply rooted social perception and construction of identity and therefore a campaign against such a core cultural practice needs to be comprehensive and sustainable in the sense that enough time need to be taken to understand the underlying historical context, values, and meaning of the practice that goes beyond the physical operation.

Keywords: Gender roles, Agikuyu, Female Circumcision, Kenya, History

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