Rescue camps overwhelmed as FGM takes toll on Kuria girls
What you need to know:
- Girls’ cut in Kuria is done in secret to beat the police dragnet.
- The cut now targets girls as low as five years after the government launched a crackdown to end the repugnant cultural practice.
- Young girls rescued from the act, are currently sheltered in makeshift rescue centres spread across the region.
Fresh blood splattered on the tarmac and a jubilant crowd dancing to traditional tunes meets the eye as one makes it through the busy Migori-Isebania highway.
The mood is frenzy. A group of boys, all covered with lessos with their faces smeared with white and red ochre, are lined by the roadside in a procession. The blood on the tarmac drips freely from their genitalia that have just been cut.
The tens of boys are being showered with monetary gifts as older men, armed with spears and other crude weapons, chant merrily to the renditions of the Kuria traditional songs.
This is the Bugumbe clan in the Kuria community. The locals are engrossed in a circumcision craze for the boys, a traditional rite of passage that will see the candidates graduate from boyhood into men.
Then out of the blues, appear young girls on motorbikes. They have secretly been mutilated and are hastily being ferried to their homes where a party is set to be conducted.
They too, are covered in lessos and are supported on the motorbikes that are moving at a slow speed. The riders are careful not to inflict more harm to the girls.
“The girls’ cut is done in secret to beat the police dragnet. The government is hard on us so we do not parade them alongside the boys as was the case before. Their cut is often conducted in the wee hours of the morning, in the hills away from the prying eyes of the public,” says Mzee Rioba Chacha, an elder well-versed with the modes of operation.
The cut, according to Mzee Rioba, now targets girls as low as five years after the government launched a crackdown to end the repugnant cultural practice.
“It is coordinated through phone calls. The victims’ parents often call the circumcisers and the act is done hastily since police and activists are always on the prowl,” he explains.
Young girls who have been rescued from the act are currently sheltered in makeshift rescue centres spread across the region.
*Mary Boke (not her real name) and her mother relocated to one of the camps in Kuria West after learning of her father’s intent to have her mutilated.
“My mother accompanied me to the camp after learning that my dad was hell-bent on having me undergo the cut. He has since been threatening us with dire consequences should we go back home. He has also threatened to divorce my mum,” the 12-year-old tells nation.africa when we visit the centre.
She is, however, worried that her education might come to an abrupt end after her father apparently disowned her for refusing to undergo the cut.
"I am worried that my father no longer wants to associate with me if I do not accept to take the cut. I am preparing to sit the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) exam but if I go home, I will be subjected to circumcision," she says.
Majority of the 126 girls at the rescue centre are in primary school, while the remaining few are in secondary school.
Suzanne Matinde, a programs coordinator at Gesose, a non-profit organisation currently protecting the girls, decries poor sanitation and lack of food to sustain the fast rising number.
Ms Matinde notes that even though some parents committed to have their children back, promising not to subject them to the agonizing ritual, repatriating the uncut girls “was proving tricky as the community was in the peak of FGM.”
Mary Wegesa, another activist taking custody of the girls, says the institution is getting overwhelmed, with more girls expected to join the camp as the FGM season peaks.
“We lack basic sanitary materials as well as food to cater for the fast rising population. The survivors are relying on food rations from the school following the end term break. Their security is equally at risk,” she says when nation.africa visits the facility.
Law enforcers in Kuria West and children's officers, have blamed the rising cases of FGM to lack of political goodwill. By Thursday last week, anti-FGM crusaders had rescued 165 girls amidst calls for material support in the already overstretched facilities.
Kuria West Sub-county Police Commander Cletti Kimaiyo, blames local politicians for secretly funding the perpetrators “while keeping a deaf ear on the plight of the victims”.
“Being a campaign season, politicians are shying off from addressing the FGM issue out of fear of losing support from the community who are deeply engrossed into the vice,” he says.
Without mentioning names, the police boss accuses some area administrators of colluding with the perpetrators to abet the vice while promising punitive measures against the said officers.
“We profiled two government officers who are working with the perpetrators. The matter is under investigation and we will soon be issuing interdiction letters towards the same,” he says.