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“Harm Philanthropy”? Luos Speak Out

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By Ken Owino

It is 22nd August, 2019. A two-year-old-boy has had his penis completely cut off in a botched circumcision in a government hospital at Isinya Health Centre in Kajiado County. The boy’s mother, Betty Nyamoita, says she took her son to the health center for the procedure at midday, but had to wait for about 4 hours for her son to be attended to and since it was then getting late, her request to postpone it until the following day fell on the deaf ears of a nurse who insisted on performing it, leading to the botched circumcision in which the boy lost the head of his penis. A nurse at the Isinya Health Centre defended her colleague besides begging Nyamoita not to report the matter to police.

A study, jointly conducted by the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) and the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation (PIRE) which appeared in the Journal of AIDS and Behaviour, reports that at least 35,000 underage boys have been subjected to forceful circumcision without parental consent. It is worrisome that among the 623,773 circumcisions supported by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) between 2013 and 2016, more than 35,000 minors were forcefully circumcised. Almost 50% of these forced circumcisions on underage boys were done to the most vulnerable orphans who may not be enrolled in schools, putting to meaning that funding circumcision surpasses the need to finance education of the needy members of our community who cannot afford the acquisition and purchasing of basic commodities in their daily lives.

Almost 50% of these forced circumcisions on underage boys were done to the most vulnerable orphans who may not be enrolled in schools, putting to meaning that funding circumcision surpasses the need to finance education.

The cropping practice of forced circumcision is attributed to high donor-set targets on the number of circumcisions to be achieved within a period. An evaluation of the much hyped VMMC programme in Kenya further exposes an evil of massive data falsification and manipulation to massage the ego of donors in pouring more funds to maim the perfectly created penises of ignorant Africans. In Homa Bay County, for example, data for 2016 sheds light on coverage rates of up to 180%. In Siaya, Kisumu and Migori Counties, the false data were well over 100% for all age groups. However, in spite of this inflated coverage, the organisations carrying out VMMC in Luo Nyanza shamelessly continued reporting high circumcision demand and requirement for more funding. Ironically, the spread of HIV/AIDS, an epidemic which VMMC was meant to check, within the four counties of Luo Nyanza is skyrocketing.

Medical fraud of forced circumcision, falsification of data and circumcision harm are some of the strong forces that have compelled Intact Kenya to come out publicly in order to debunk the myths surrounding circumcision single-handedly as most of the children’s rights groups and human rights organisations have decided to keep mum about the atrocity perpetrated against men, others are looking the other way in order to pocket more donor funds or are selective in their work as could be seen in the legal war against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). Who will speak for our innocent young boys and the gullible men who are an easy target for the insatiable eyes of the ever growing mafia of circumcisers?

On Friday 23rd August, 2019, Intact Kenya was blowing its trumpets loud live-on-air through Ratego Radio Station which broadcasts on the frequency of 98.1fm with a wide coverage stretching across most parts of Luo Nyanza. The programme was hosted by one Elphas Odhiambo who is popularly known as “Profesa” while Intact Kenya was represented by Caleb Anyange, Job Kajwang and I. In the first hour of the radio talk show, we took listeners through a series of circumcision information and explanation by exhaustively answering questions asked by Profesa. Job incisively explained that the word “voluntary” as used in VMMC does not apply to the circumcision of a child below the consent age of 18, circumcision after parental consent (since parents are not in possession of the penis being cut), and circumcision done under coercion and use of enticements like loaves of bread, soft drinks, biscuits and cakes. Also explained at that time were the erotic functions of the foreskin, erectile dysfunction as one of the negative side effects of circumcision, biblical and cultural aspects of circumcision.

Job incisively explained that the word “voluntary” as used in VMMC does not apply to the circumcision of a child … and circumcision done under coercion and use of enticements like loaves of bread, soft drinks, biscuits and cakes.

The foreskin is an integral functioning component of a man’s penis akin to what an eyelid is to the eye. It serves functions of protection, sexual sensitivity, lubrication, skin-gliding, immunological defence and varied sexual sensation.

But as the circumcision fire rages on along the streets and across villages of Sub-Saharan Africa, predominantly fuelled and fanned by funding from the US’ PEPFAR, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation among other Western “harm philanthropists,” what is next for those men who resent having succumbed to the circumcision menace? Foregen is a registered non-governmental organisation that was founded to research and implement medical therapies for circumcised males. Its mission is to heal the physical detriment that is inherent to circumcision, including the functional and sensory losses to the penis when circumcised. Foregen offers hope in the possibility to regrow the specialized erogenous tissues of the foreskin. Another way to “decircumcise” is through Foreskin Restoration which is a non-surgical way of undoing some of the damage of circumcision. Foreskin Restoration generally involves tape, elastic weight or some other means of creating tension to the skin on the penis.

But as the circumcision fire rages on along the streets and across villages of Sub-Saharan Africa, predominantly fuelled and fanned by funding from the US’ PEPFAR, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation among other Western “harm philanthropists,” what is next for those men who resent having succumbed to the circumcision menace?

We listened to phone calls and read text messages from concerned listeners. They appreciated the work we do of disseminating information debunking circumcision myths. One listener called to put the blame on some famous Luo politicians for leading them to blindly embrace a fraudulent medical intervention in order to gain an ever elusive political milage while some called to ask questions why Luo Nyanza has ever been on the top rung of the Kenya’s HIV/AIDS prevalence ladder for several decades.

One listener called to put the blame on some famous Luo politicians for leading them to blindly embrace a fraudulent medical intervention in order to gain an ever elusive political milage.

There was a caller who expressed fear on how to expedite push for legal action to be taken against the doctors and nurses who carry out forced and botched circumcisions.

We had one caller saying that he was circumcised at the age of 22 due to the influence of the neighbouring Kalenjins at the Awasi area of Kisumu County. In his view he deduced from our talk show that circumcised men pose less Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) because of the less sexual pleasure they experience while the opposite is true for intact men. However, all his sons are circumcised and he says, “they have not complained.”

One man called to ask why a similar practice, FGM, that existed among various African communities was stopped through legal provisions that were enacted by act of Parliament while male circumcision which harms men in the same way has been medicalised. He said that using one knife to circumcise several boys during cultural initiations puts them at a higher risk of HIV infection.

Another listener narrated the journey through his own life into circumcision. He was then living in Nairobi in a congested neighbourhood of men and women from circumcising ethnic groups in which with an intact penis he became an outcast. Most of the beautiful ladies he approached during seduction stages of his youthful years asked about his circumcision status.

On one day, several years later, his son came home with a circumcision form which he did sign. The boy said that they had been promised a bottle of soda each after circumcision. The boy was circumcised, but the soft drink was not given. A broken boy, a broken promise. He concluded by echoing the chorus of deeper circumcision investigation propped up with legal action where necessary.

The boy said that they had been promised a bottle of soda each after circumcision. The boy was circumcised, but the soft drink was not given. A broken boy, a broken promise.

There was a listener who said that the political culpability of Luos was the basis of using them as lab rats in circumcision and other unprecedented medical practices. He wonders why Luos are pushed to do a cultural practice of circumcision which has been borrowed from other communities. He supports spiritual circumcision and will oppose VMMC until the end of time.

The last call of the show was an inspirational narration from a strong-willed man who almost went for circumcision at the rollout stages of VMMC. In his early years of high school, he was among the students who had been collected by a group of circumcisers and ferried to a nearby hospital. On arrival, he witnessed how circumcision of boys had evolved into a business opportunity where circumcisers reaped fat cheques; the more boys a doctor or nurse circumcises, the more money he/she gets. There was no follow-up. Sadly, one of the students who was circumcised on that day developed complications and failed to get the required medical rectification even after seeking treatment from several hospitals.

He witnessed how circumcision of boys had evolved into a business opportunity where circumcisers reaped fat cheques.

The radio host concluded by asking what action Intact Kenya plans to take in order to illegalise male circumcision without medical necessity through an act of Parliament by tabling a bill for legislation.


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