School girls in Kenya undergo compulsory tests for pregnancy, FGM

School girls in Kenya undergo compulsory tests for pregnancy, FGM
Girls sit in the yard at Kalas Girls Primary School, Amudat District, Karamoja, Uganda. They each escaped home after their families tried to force them to undergo FGM or to enter into marriage. Photo taken on January 31, 2018. Sally Hayden/Thomson Reuters Foundation

Girls in western Kenya returning to school after the Christmas break are undergoing compulsory tests for female genital mutilation (FGM) in a move to crackdown against the illegal and harmful practice, a senior government official said.

They are also being tested to see if they are pregnant.

George Natembeya, commissioner for Narok County, said many girls were being forced to undergo female genital mutilation (FGM) during the school vacation, and pregnancies following this traditional “rite of passage” were common.

“We have the highest rates of teen pregnancies in the country, and FGM is widespread in some communities in Narok, but it is difficult to detect these cases as it is all underground and secretive,” Natembeya told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“The tests will help us to better support girls who often have to hide their pregnancies and health complications after undergoing FGM. We will also be able to prosecute men who defile them, and go after their parents who force them to undergo FGM.”

Since primary and secondary schools opened in Narok on Thursday, Natembeya said girls aged between 9-17 years were being given pregnancy tests and examined for FGM by trained medical professionals in local schools and clinics.

Girls will be given support to return home if they are pregnant and guaranteed admission to school after giving birth, he said.

Those who had undergone FGM would be given counseling and medical attention, he added.

The move has sparked outrage among women’s’ rights campaigners who said the compulsory tests are demeaning and would further victimize and traumatize girls.

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