THE NATION, Nairobi, Kenya,
13 December 2001.

Moi Bans Circumcision of Girls

Owino Opondo And Pps

President Moi yesterday banned the circumcision of girls aged under 18.

The directive is in tandem with the Children's Bill, which was passed recently by Parliament and now awaits his assent.

The Bill provides for a minimum of a year's jail term and/or a fine of Sh50,000 for anyone who circumcises girls or forces them into early marriage.

The President was speaking during the 38th Jamhuri Day celebrations at Nyayo National Stadium, Nairobi.

He warned: "You can look at a 17-year-old girl ... but don't touch. If you do, you will be thrown into jail."

The President also defended Kanu's nomination of only one woman to the East African Legislative Assembly.

The treaty that established the regional community did not state how many women Kenya should send to the Assembly, he said.

His off-the-cuff remark was in apparent reference to the protests that followed Kanu's decision to nominate one instead of two women to the Arusha-based Assembly.

Kanu nominated Prof Margaret Kamar, principal of Moi University's Chepkoilel Campus and also one of Trade Minister Nicholas Biwott's wives, to its five-member slot. The Democratic Party had earlier picked Mrs Rose Waruhiu.

Several women's organisations protested Kanu's move, saying it amounted to disregard of affirmative action for women.

On Tuesday, hundreds of women demonstrated in Nairobi to register their anger at Kanu's refusal to nominate a second woman to raise Kenyan women's representation in the Arusha Assembly to three - one-third of the allocation of nine MPs.

Yesterday, President Moi reiterated that he did not support affirmative action "since women in this country are as qualified as men". The principle was entrenched in Kenyan politics by the Inter-Parties Parliamentary Group minimum reforms of 1997 and is also applied in public university intake.

The Assembly rules did not specify the number of women to be nominated by the Nairobi administration, the President said.

"IIisema 'gender' tu, lakini haikusema ni wangapi" (It only said gender and not the number), the Head of State explained.

The President said he expected vocal women leaders in the country to be in the forefront in the fight for the rights of girls - including the right to education and to make informed decisions on their lives.

Cite as:
(File prepared 17 December 2001)