In our African society there are some cultural practices that are harmful. They affect the well being of the children which have a negative impact to the growing child. Caregivers and teachers should always ensure that children are safe and protected at all times.
The following are some of the cultural practices that affect the child negatively.
KILLING CHILDREN FOR SACRIFICES
Every society has got its own cultural practices. Some of them have cults that demand for human sacrifices. Children are the most targeted since they are innocent and are easily abducted. In some societies there are religious and cultural practices which call for human or child sacrifices. They also belief that when a child is born with a disability, it is a curse and as a result they are killed and offered as a sacrifice to the gods. Such practices violate the child’s
survival and protection rights. During the sacrifice the children experience painful death and this affects the siblings and older children. Such harmful practices should be discouraged and the perpetrators reported and lawful action taken against them.
According to Oxford Advanced Dictionary, abduction is taking away a human being illegally especially using force. This mostly happens to children in some areas. There are different reasons why children are abducted. Some of these reasons are:
• Early marriages
• Human sacrifices
• Child labour
• Sex tourism
Abducted children are at risk of sexual abuse, child labour, drug abuse, early marriages or are even recruited to be soldiers. Such children are not likely to get the basic needs, education, enjoy freedom of expression, association or have time to play or for leisure. They lack parental love, care and protection. This leads them to many forms of inhuman treatment. T
This is a practice of treating a certain person less fairly than the other because of their gender i.e. being male or female. This happens in some communities where one gender is valued more than the other. For example, where the girl child is only supposed to be seen and not heard. This means that it’s only the boy child who is allowed to give opinions and to interact with the others. The girl child is even discriminated in terms of food, clothing, medical attention, education among others. In some communities, the girl serves the boy child and works for more hours. The girl child is denied equal chances for education, expression, association, and participation in making decisions.
This practice is still prevalent in some parts of the society in Kenya although it is prohibited by both international and local laws. This practice means marriage or cohabitations with a child or any arrangements made for such marriage. It takes different forms:
• Promissory marriage where the girl is betrothed before she is born.
• Child marriage where a girl under age of 10 is married officially to a boy a little older. She can stay in her home until the age to consummate her marriage or be sent to her husband’s home when she is ready to take up her responsibilities.
• Early adolescent marriage which take place between 10-15 years old negotiations are made between the two families
• Late adolescent marriage which takes place between the ages of 16-20 years. In some communities girls around this age are known to be kidnapped and married against their will.
There are different reasons as follows:
• To preserve and ensure family linkage
• To control promiscuity.
• To enable parents get the dowry.
• To allow parents to choose spouse for their children
• To enhance social status – especially for daughters fathers and older men marrying young girls.
• To ensure continuity’ of family before parents pass on.
• Fulfillment of cultural traditional rites e.g. in some communities a girl must get married after her menses or immediately after FGM.
Effects of early marriages
• Health consequences
The high health risks for both the mother and the child are occasioned by pregnancy and child bearing during adolescence especially for girls under 15 years of age. The mother and her foetus are referred to as ‘mother at risk’ and ‘child at risk’ respectively.
• Exposure to abuse
This is the exposure to sexual and psychological abuse especially from men in the ‘new’ homestead.
Due to their young age, girls lack the skills and knowledge to handle their pregnancies. This leads to poor care of pregnancy and may lead to inadequate prenatal care and malnutrition of both the mother and unborn child.
The maternal mortality rates are higher in adolescent girls than in other groups.
• Obstructed labour
This is due to undeveloped uterus, birth canal and/or malnutrition of the young mother.
• Vesico-vagina fistula
This is the tear between vagina and bladder due to prolonged and unrelieved pressure in obstructed labour.
• Recto-vagina fistula
This is the tear between the rectum and the genital tract.
• High infant mortality rates
Studies shows that children of teenage mothers are more at risk of death than in other groups
• Social effects
The social effects experienced as a result of early marriages include:
• Disrupting the lives and social development of young girls.
• Increase in number of girls dropping out of school.
• Stress and depression. This is when the child is intellectually and psychologically unprepared for marital responsibilities.
• Unhappy marriages and in turn broken families.
FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION (FGM)
Female genital mutilation (FGM) is still prevalent in certain parts of the country. As of 2001 demographic health surveys (DHS), shows FGM prevalence rate was 50% in Kenya. In as much as it has been identified as one of the harmful cultural practices and prohibited by both international and local laws, it persists in most parts of Kenya.
What is Female Genital Mutilation?
Several definitions have been advanced including the following:
• According to World Vision (2001) female genital mutilation refers to ‘Any operation which involves cutting away one or several parts of the female genitalia.’
• Female circumcision means the ‘Cutting and removal of part or all of the female genitalia and includes the practices of clitoridectomy, excision, infibulations or other practices involving the removal of part, or of the entire clitoris or labia minora of a female person.’ (According to Section 2, paragraph 20 of the Children Act 2001)
Types of Female Genital Mutilation
FGM is practiced in different ways. The predominant types are:
The prepuce with part or the entire clitoris is cut off. It is also referred to as ‘Isunna’ in some parts of the world.
The clitoris and part of or the entire inner vaginal lips (labia minora) are removed.
The clitoris, parts of or the entire vaginal lips are removed and incisions are made on the outer vaginal lips (labia majora) creating a raw surface. These surfaces are then sewn together, leaving only a small hole for letting out urine and menstrual blood.
Why is FGM practiced?
Some of the reasons given for the practice of FGM include:
• To preserve the virginity of a girl
• Control the sexuality of a girl or woman and therefore contain promiscuity
• Prerequisite of marriage
• Ensuring hygiene around the genitalia
• Rite of passage into adulthood
• Maintain social cohesion.
Some myths also exist for practicing FGM. These include:
• The baby will die at birth if the mother is not circumcised.
• The husband of an uncircumcised girl will die.
• Uncircumcised girls remain children all through their lives.
• The midwife will become blind
Effects of Female Genital Mutilation
• Immediate physical complications
Extreme pain, hemorrhage, shock, blood poisoning, gangrene, tetanus, and acute urinary retention
• Long term complications
Painful menses and sex, infertility, prolonged labour and other birthing complications, increased maternal and child morbidity and mortality rates, inability to monitor reproductive health, and psychological trauma
• Psycho-sexual complications
Such as painful intercourse, extra-marital sexual affairs, slow sexual arousal, and inhibited orgasm.