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Kenyan church group supports Maasai girls avoiding FGM

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Summary of story from Yahoo, October 5, 2011

Despite a new law banning female genital mutilation (FGM), the Maasai and other Kenyan tribes continue to practice it.

But although tribal elders strongly defend the tradition, some men who do not have set up a church-run refuge centre.

The Hope for Maasai Girls Centre, in Narok, west of the capital Nairobi, founded in 2007, provides shelter for up to a dozen girls wanting to avoid circumcision.

Its founders, led by Pastor Jacob Momposhi Samperu, are often threatened by angry men, and it is not unusual for parents to disown daughters who go there.

Marrying an uncircumcised girl degrades your value as a man, Martin Ololoigero, a manager at the centre explains, and there are some rituals – marriage for example – the girl cannot participate in if she is not circumcised.

There is also a commercial aspect to the practice: a circumcised bride can bring her family a dowry of several cows; highly prized by the semi-nomadic Maasai.

Girls as young as nine undergo FGM so they can be married off, usually to older men.

At the rescue centre 15-year-old Sarah Setoon said: “When girls are circumcised they have a lot of difficulties during childbirth. That’s why I refused to get circumcised.”

“They are married off to old men, and sometimes these old men may die and leave the girl facing so many problems, and she has to do odd jobs just to survive.”

But the harmful tradition has strong supporters, admits Ololoigero.

“It is not something that will end soon. It will take time. We don’t want to upset the community. Remember we come from that community. We want to have a gradual change.”

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