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Within the Western world, the practice of clitoridectomies is infamous for its associations with infertility, hemorrhaging, and irreversible complications that affect the fertility and life of mothers and young women. In contrast, select tribes in the Eastern hemisphere uphold the practice with historical and cultural significance promoting its continuation in modern day; amongst these select tribes is the Gikuyu tribe in Kenya, Africa. The Gikuyu tribe, commonly known as the Kikuyu, has a long cultural history with clitoridectomies as the practice originated in ancestral tribal groups and is performed annually in a rite of passage ceremony called irua. Jomo Kenyatta, a Kenyan nationalist leader who fought for independence and sovereignty from European powers, was raised in the Gikuyu tribe and supported the practice of clitoridectomies. Kenyatta, the Gikuyu tribe, and other Kenyan nationalist movements within the 1900s supported the practice of clitoridectomies in spite of the known medical repercussions from the procedure and the consequent lack of female sexual liberation. Through the eyes of the indigenous people, the author examines Gikuyu tribal history and culture, the influence of nationalist leader Jomo Kenyatta, and the adverse effects of European colonialism and imperialism to discover why the continuation of clitoridectomies occurred and why the practice was deemed essential to the preservation of Kenyan national identity, tribal history and culture.


Undergraduate Research Awards - 2020 Finalist, First-Year/Sophomore category