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Friday, 7 February, 2003, 12:34 GMT
Kenyan girls flee mutilation
Kenyan girls
Kenyan girls should be protected by the police
As least 100 Kenyan girls are in hiding from their parents as they seek to escape forced Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).

Churches in south-western Kenya have been sheltering them after they ran away from their homes.

BBC News Online has been told that there are some 700 others in the south-west alone, who have not yet run away but are in dispute with their parents who want them to undergo FGM.

FGM, traditionally known as circumcision, remains widespread in much of rural Kenya, even though it was outlawed among young girls in 2001, with girls above the age of 16 able to make their own decision.

Help

Agnes Yapan, a co-ordinator for the women's NGO, Maendeleo Ya Wanawake, which campaigns against forced FGM, is helping to look after 33 of the girls in Narok.

She told BBC News Online that the authorities were not responding to their requests, and they had only been helped by churches and sympathetic pastors.

"We would like some assistance. If we can get some help we will be able to look after them properly," she said

The girls aged between about 13 and 18, go to school or are training in the daytime. They then stay together in church rooms in the evening, using church-supplied bedding.

She said there was a similar situation in nearby areas.

"No-one helped them run away. They know we have been teaching against the dangers of FGM"

Open in new window : Circumcision voices
Kenyan girls tell of fleeing genital mutilation

She said as soon as a girl was circumcised "she is given up to her husband".

"We want them to get their eduction."

Many of the girls fled their homes as long ago as December, at the start of the long holidays.

Secretive

Maendeleo say that Narok and Kisii districts in the west have the highest cases of FGM in the country and a lot more effort is required to contain the practice in these areas.

Archive picture of girls preparing for circumcision
FGM remains widespread in rural Kenya
Some 14 countries in Africa have now banned FGM. Campaigners have sought to replace the traditional practice with a coming of age ceremony.

Executive Director of the Centre for Human Rights and Democracy Ken Wafula said recently that most communities in Kenya practising FGM were now doing it in secret to avoid arrest.

He said his organisation was visiting various primary schools to educate young girls against the dangers of the rite and encouraging the formation of anti-FGM clubs in schools.

According to a 1998 survey in Kenya, 38% of women aged between 15 and 49 years old were estimated to have undergone FGM.

The World Health Organisation estimates that about 130 million girls and women in 28 countries undergo some form of female circumcision.

Thursday, was the first UN-backed International Day Against Female Genital Mutilation and Other Harmful Traditional Practices.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Agnes Yapan, NGO Coordinator on Focus on Africa
"They ran away through the forest"
See also:

08 Feb 03 | Health
12 Dec 01 | Africa
13 Dec 00 | Africa
09 Jun 00 | Health
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