At least 300 girls in south-western Kenya have fled from home and sought refuge in churches in a bid to escape forced female genital mutilation (FGM).

The girls, some as young as nine, are at two rescue centres in rural Nyanza province, police told the BBC. Female circumcision is banned in Kenya, but remains common in some areas where it is considered to be part of a girl’s initiation into womanhood.

The traditional ceremonies take place between November and December.

The girls in Kuria District are now in the care of the two churches and Maendeleo Ya Wanawake, a women’s organisation. Police are providing security at the centres to ensure that the girls are not forcibly removed or harassed.

Beatrice Robi, Maendeleo Ya Wanawake’s district chairperson and a gender activist, says that at least 200 girls are undergoing circumcision in the district a day. She said she had found a seven-year-old girl who had just been circumcised.

The FGM operation involves the partial or total removal of the external genital organs.

The UN World Health Organization (WHO) says it leads to bleeding, shock, infections and a higher rate of death for new-born babies. In Africa, about three million girls are at risk of FGM each year, according to the UN


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