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Groups that Have Received Funding From V-Day Collaborate, Equality Now and the V-Day Safe House

10/14/2004

Following is the press release from Equality Now:

TWO MAASAI GIRLS IN KENYA FORCED TO UNDERGO GENITAL MUTILATION EQUALITY NOW URGES KENYAN AUTHORITIES TO HOLD PERPETRATORS ACCOUNTABLE

September 17, 2004 - While the Kenyan government is hosting an international conference on female genital mutilation (FGM) in Nairobi this week, two Kenyan sisters mutilated two weeks ago are calling for justice in their case. Santeyian and Dorcas Keiwua, 16 and 14 years old, respectively, were cut on August 28, 2004 in their home in Orkiriaine at Lolonga Division of Narok District.

When relatives first threatened her with genital mutilation in 2001, Santeyian Keiwua escaped from her home and reported the matter to the District Officer. She was sent to boarding school. Afraid to return home during summer vacations for fear of being cut, she spent the summers of 2001 and 2002 at the Tasaru Girls Rescue Centre. The Centre sent Santeyian home in April 2003, after reconciling with her mother, who undertook not to subject her or her sister, Dorcas, to genital mutilation. Santeyian continued to attend boarding school and visited home during holidays. On the morning of August 28, 2004, while their mother was away, Santeyian and Dorcas were awakened by their brother, who told them they were going to be circumcised. Although they tried to resist, Santeyian and Dorcas were threatened and beaten. Santeyian was tied down and cut by a circumciser with the assistance of their brother and six neighbors.

Immediately upon her return, Santeyian's and Dorcas' mother rushed her daughters to a hospital and reported the case to the District Officer. Two of the women who helped hold the girls down during the cutting were arrested the same day and later released on bail. The others, including the girls' brother, ran away and have not yet been caught. Santeyian and Dorcas remained in hospital for nine days. They are now staying at the Tasaru Girls Rescue Centre because they fear they will be forced into marriage if they return home.

Agnes Pareyio, founder and director of the Tasaru Centre, called on the Kenyan authorities to take action. "I urge Kenyan authorities to be proactive and arrest all of the people who circumcised the Keiwua sisters," she said. "The government should use this case to demonstrate that such blatant violations of Kenya's anti-FGM law will not be tolerated." Equality Now Africa Regional Director Faiza Jama Mohamed joined this call for justice, noting the need for systematic enforcement of the law. "The anti-FGM law on the books is clearly not enough to deter the continuing genital mutilation of girls. If this practice is to end," she said, "it is absolutely essential for Kenyan authorities to enforce the law strictly by bringing all perpetrators to justice in all reported FGM cases." Equality Now has written to Kenyan authorities, including the District Commissioner, urging them to follow-up on the case and arrest all the perpetrators.

Although Kenya passed a law prohibiting FGM in 2001, Kenyan authorities have been slow to respond to the resistance to end FGM, despite grassroots efforts around the country to stop the practice. In August 2004, the Tasaru Girls Rescue Centre organized an alternative rite of passage in Melelo, a 10-15 minute drive from the home of the Keiwua sisters. And despite much activism in the West Pokot district, in August alone, more than 100 schoolgirls were subjected to FGM there. In June 2004, Equality Now convened the first international meeting of ex-circumcisers in Nairobi, highlighting pan-African grassroots efforts to end FGM. The Tasaru Girls Rescue Centre is a grantee of Equality Now's Fund for Grassroots Activism to End FGM.

Please help Equality Now end FGM. To make a contribution go to:

https://www-secure.earthlink.net/www.equalitynow.org/member_joinform_en.html

Equality Now is an international human rights organization that works to protect and promote the civil, political, economic and social rights of girls and women. Equality Now's Women's Action Network is comprised of more than 25,000 organizations and individuals in more than 160 countries. For more information, please visit www.equalitynow.org

To read more about the V-Day safe house in Narok, Kenya: http://www.vday.org/contents/vday/press/release/020405