By Nick Oluoch and Patrick Muthuri

Over five hundred girls will be forced to spend their Christmas in rescue camps after being forced to hide, to avoid being forced to undergo Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).

Iscah Aoro, the chairperson of Migori Community Negative Traditional Practices Mitigation Organization (MICONTRAP) said the girls, drawn from both Kuria East and West districts, were forced to escape to the camps in November.

“They are still unable to go home because the exercise is still ongoing,” said Mrs Aoro, adding that, 290 girls are camping at St Mary Mabera Secondary School, 116 at Komotobo rescue centre, while another group of about 150 are at St Joseph School Ntimaru.

She called for joint effort by all those involved in the fight against the vice, saying some of the girls at the centre were still vulnerable to being forced to undergo FGM on leaving the camps.

Aoro was speaking during a workshop held in Migori town to look into reasons why the vice had not stopped, despite legislation having been passed to put a halt to it.

She cited Kenya Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act of 2010, which was enacted into law recently by Parliament. The Act prescribes tough penalties of a jail term not exceeding seven years or a fine not exceeding Sh500, 000 or both for people found guilty of the offence.

The act also provides for life imprisonment for a person who causes death to another in the process of performing FGM.

Speaking at the same forum, Benta Adhiambo, the Coordinator of the Pan African Women Association (PAWA), an organisation based in Norway, said there is great need to conduct civic education and enlighten the locals about the dangers of FGM.

Elsewhere, residents of Tigania East, West and Igembe†in Meru County have been urged to be vigilant and report incidents of female circumcision.

The retrogressive exercise is still being practised in the area and is conducted in secret at night.

Speaking during a ceremony to mark the end of a week-long alternative rite of passage at St Cyprian Boys’ Secondary School, Community Initiative for Rural Development (CIFORD), Kenya Coordinator, Margaret Ikiara said over 300 girls have been rescued from FGM in Meru North.

“We have rescued over 300 girls from female genital mutilation in Igembe and Tigania where we have put them through the Alternative rite of passage. Due to increased campaign and FGM being outlawed, the circumcisers have gone underground and collude with parents to circumcise girls at night,” Ms Ikiara said.

She noted that the forums have been emphasising on exposing the myths traditionally attached to female circumcision that have been used to lure some girls into undergoing the cut.

Ms Ikiara urged the community to concentrate on educating girls rather than taking them through rites that sabotage their future, adding that times have changed.

Ikiara said if girls are informed about the facts on the dangers of FGM they should be able to resist pressure from their parents to undergo the rite.

Ikiara said the organisation holds free Alternative rite of passage workshops during the holidays for girls aged between 12-15 because they are most vulnerable.