Alternative to Female Circumcision

A Catholic diocese in Kenya is giving girls a chance to make the transition to adulthood without participating in the traditional tribal rite of female circumcision, sometimes referred to as genital mutilation, a practice that carries the risk of disease and death. Workers in the Diocese of Meru have developed a ritual called “An Alternative Rite of Passage,” which formally marks a girl’s passage into adolescence by including some of the elements from the traditional rite. In other areas of Kenya, programs to stop the circumcisions have not succeeded, so Meru diocesan officials decided to begin slowly. Joseph MEruaki MUthari and Martin Koome, coordinators of the program, said they spoke with community leaders, members of the councils of elders, parents and the girls themselves to make sure that the people knew that the diocese did not wish to condemn the culture but rather to affirm it, without compromising ethical principles or standards of public health.

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