Kenyan police have rescued 40 school girls who were reportedly being shipped to Tanzania under suspicious circumstances, according to Citizen TV.
Speaking to Radio Ramogi on Sunday, Deputy County Commissioner of Kuria East Wesley Koech said the girls were intercepted at the border between Kenya and Tanzania in the company of three adult men, one of who purports to be a pastor.
The men, who are currently being held at Ntmaru Police Station, said they were taking the girls to a rescue center in Tanzania to protect them from female genital mutilation.
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“There is a procedure even if you’re taking the children to a rescue center or children’s home; there are standard regulations that govern the process. In this particular case, he [the pastor] is taking the children to a foreign country and no one has certified that they be moved to the facility,” Koech remarked.
The girls were taken to Komotobo Rescue Center in Kuria, Western Kenya, and investigations have already begun to establish the motive behind the alleged trafficking, according to Koech.
The police also are working to establish how the pastor managed to lure the 40 girls without involving the children’s office or security officers in the region.
Among the Kuria people, female circumcision is a common rite of passage involving girls who are as young as 12 years old.
The ritual is commonly performed in December, when schools break for holidays. Unfortunately, most of the girls do not return to school once they undergo the cut.
Instead, most of them end up getting married or working as barmaids and house help. Experts say that female genital mutilation gives the young girls a false sense of womanhood.
Even though the Kenyan government, in conjunction with non-governmental organizations, has been running various campaigns against FGM in Kuria and other parts of the country, the practice is still widespread.
Under the Kenyan constitution, female genital mutilation is a criminal offence that warrants life imprisonment upon conviction. The law also forbids any form of abuse or embarrassment of any woman who has not undergone the cut.
Any person who ridicules or otherwise harms a woman on the basis of not having been circumcised is liable to a minimum of six months in prison or a fine of not less than 50,000 Kenyan shillings.
Although many Kenyan communities have embraced other less injurious forms of female initiation, some are still practicing female genital mutilation in secret, exposing young girls to serious health risks, such as permanent damage to their genitalia and sometimes death.