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Wednesday, 12 December, 2001, 14:46 GMT
Kenya bans FGM among young
Female genital mutilation, traditionally known as circumcision, has been outlawed among young girls in Kenya.
In a speech marking independence day, President Daniel arap Moi said the circumcising of girls under the age of 17 was now a crime punishable by at least a year in jail.
The practice remains widespread in much of rural Kenya, and President Moi has promised police protection for those at risk.
"Anyone found circumcising a girl of 16 will go straight to jail," he told the crowd.
He said the prohibition of FGM on young girls was one of the measures contained in the 2001 Children's Bill passed by parliament recently.
"But for girls above the age of 16 years, it is their choice to be circumcised or not. Should they not want to be circumcised, they shall also be protected by the new law," he said.
According to a 1998 survey in Kenya, 38% of women aged between 15 and 49 years old were estimated to have undergone FGM.
A year ago, two teenage schoolgirls won a landmark court order preventing their father from forcing them to undergo FGM
The order was welcomed by human rights activists as an important step towards ending the traditional practice.
Many organisations have been working in countries like Kenya, developing a more symbolic coming-of-age ritual for girls which can be used instead of FGM.
Health officials say the practice of removing parts of the female genitalia increases the dangers of childbirth and the risk to the baby.
The World Health Organisation estimates that about 130 million girls and women in 28 countries undergo some form of female circumcision.
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