The Kenyan Daily Nation newspaper reports that at least 30 boys have been forcibly circumcised, some of them as young as six years old, in Eldoret. It is said that an ‘NGO’ called Impact Research Development Organization was behind these forcible circumcisions.
Impact Research Development Organization (IRDO) is quite secretive, with several websites and Facebook pages that give very little detail about who they are, how they are funded, and to whom they are accountable. One of the latest incarnations, http://www.impact-rdo.org/, is still under construction. The owner of the domain is given as ‘Safaricom’, effectively an anonymous identity.
But one of the Facebook pages may answer some of those questions: in a photograph of about thirty black people, twentynine of whom are male, there is the unmistakable white face of ‘Dr’, ‘Professor’ (of epidemiology) Robert C Bailey, of the School of Public Health, University of Illinois at Chicago.
Aggressively pushing mass male circumcision as an antidote to HIV and a host of other possible ailments for more than twenty years, Bailey’s name has appeared on many of the published papers promoting the operation, with even the wildest of claims remaining unchallenged by most other academics.
His ‘NGOs’ may have undergone several name changes for good reason. He is one of the biggest recipients in Kenya (where about 85% of men are already circumcised) of the hundreds of millions of dollars said to be available for mass male circumcision programs. But the fate of some of those millions of public dollars is not always transparent.
Another of his ‘NGOs’ is called the Nyanza Reproductive Health Society (NHRS). The NHRS is similarly secretive and merely recycles the same sort of publicity blurb as IRDO. Kenya’s Standard newspaper covered the allegations of misuse of funds by NHRS a few years ago.
The Nation author seems impressed with the fact that the children were said to have been ‘lured with sweets’, which is probably the mass male circumcision campaigners’ pediatric version of luring people with bullshit about how circumcision, not only ‘protects’ you from HIV and other STIs, but also ensures greater attractiveness to women, better orgasms and ‘hygiene’ (as if intact men are unable to clean their penises and circumcised men don’t need to!).
Although circumcision is contrary to the cultural practices of the communities that the victims come from, incidents like this don’t appear to have resulted in any greater recognition of how serious a crime this is. In contrast, there is a lot of international money and attention for preventing female genital mutilation, especially where this is in keeping with the cultural practices of the communities where it is practiced.
Is it because those involved are male that this is not really seen as mutilation? It is clearly a denial of the right to bodily integrity. Carrying out an operation that involves removal of healthy flesh without consent is always wrong; it is always mutilation, regardless of the gender of the victim.
Perhaps because the money comes from the US, where male circumcision is very common, it is felt that Kenyan people should just put up and shut up (as they seem to have done so far). This is an issue for Kenyan people of all ethnicities to address themselves, whether they practice circumcision or not.
Kenyan children have a right to be protected from such abuses, as do Kenyan adults, male and female. It’s time to question large amounts of money being made available to carry out dubious ‘research’ projects, with Kenyans being used as cheap research fodder.