Girls in Kenya are hiding in school over Christmas for fear of FGM at home

Danger of female circumcision becomes more acute during holiday

Harriet Agerholm
Thursday 22 December 2016 23:05
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Young Maasai girls
Young Maasai girls

Some Kenyan schools will stay open throughout the Christmas holidays to accommodate hundreds of girls who are scared their family will force them to undergo female genital mutilation (FGM) if they go home.

Schools that would have closed more than a month ago for the Christmas break are staying open for the girls, with head teachers being told to make the buildings available and ensure they attend classes.

The danger of female circumcision becomes more acute around Christmas, which is a time for initiation rituals in many communities, the BBC reported.

FGM was banned in 2011, a move that with Kenya's Women Parliamentary Association hailed as a "bold step" for the rights of women.

But one county official Brian Njeru, who has converted all the girl’s schools under his jurisdiction into rescue centres for the holidays, told the BBC girls continued to undergo the procedure in secret.

"This is a deeply entrenched issue that will take time to completely get rid of," he said.

"These days there are no elaborate ceremonies to celebrate girls who have undergone FGM.

"It is very secretive and it makes it very difficult to apprehend those who are behind this."

Yet he said the number of girls enrolling in primary and secondary school had rocketed in the wake of the ban.

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