Kenyan leaders institute ‘painful’ reforms

MUJAHID SAFODIEN/AFP/Getty Images (Picture actually from Swaziland)   In a grand gesture, three government ministers and one member of parliament publicly announced this week that they had been circumcised in secret. This is a particularly bold effort to help curb the taboo against circumcision among Kenya’s Luo tribe — the third largest ethnic group in ...

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592361_080925_circ5.jpg

MUJAHID SAFODIEN/AFP/Getty Images (Picture actually from Swaziland)

 

In a grand gesture, three government ministers and one member of parliament publicly announced this week that they had been circumcised in secret. This is a particularly bold effort to help curb the taboo against circumcision among Kenya's Luo tribe -- the third largest ethnic group in the country -- in which, unlike the Luhya community, the practice is not a rite of passage.

MUJAHID SAFODIEN/AFP/Getty Images (Picture actually from Swaziland)

 

In a grand gesture, three government ministers and one member of parliament publicly announced this week that they had been circumcised in secret. This is a particularly bold effort to help curb the taboo against circumcision among Kenya’s Luo tribe — the third largest ethnic group in the country — in which, unlike the Luhya community, the practice is not a rite of passage.

The hope is that this highly public display of solidarity for the scientific findings on the success circumcision has in preventing the spread of HIV and AIDS — reducing the risk of infection by as much as 60 percent — will spur men in the community to follow suit.

In Kenya, where nearly 2.5 of its 32 million citizens are currently living with HIV and AIDS, there is often resistance when it comes to bowing to medical findings over age-old traditions. This past July, after the ministry of health began offering free circumcision services in Nyanza Province, the Luo Council of Elders refused to sanction the practice. However, not all of the protests were in defense of culture. Some fear that those who have the surgery will no longer feel compelled to use condoms which are far and away the best method of prevention.

Men in the Nyanza province have been coming out in droves for the free “cut,” and the government hopes that at least two million men in the province will be circumcised. At least five other government officials have agreed to the surgerical procedure. Prime Minister Raila Odinga did his part to encourage listeners:

All there is to circumcision is availing your male organ for the foreskin to be removed, like ‘ting’ [snip] and it is all over.”

That’s quite a sales pitch.

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