Kenyan girls are being pushed into Uganda and other countries like Tanzania, Somalia and Ethiopia for female genital mutilation (FGM) to avoid the on-going a crackdown on the injurious tradition at home, campaigners have said.

The government of Kenya criminalised FGM in 2011 with a minimum punishment of three years imprisonment and a U.S$2,000 fine, boosting efforts to curb the internationally condemned custom with the most comprehensive anti-FGM legislation in East Africa.

Campaigners say that while sensitisation on the effects of the practice has brought down the prevalence rates, it still persists as people discover new ways to evade prosecution in the country.

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“Cross-border FGM is becoming an increasing trend in the areas we work along Kenya’s border with Uganda and Tanzania, especially in December during the school holidays,” said Agnes Kola, women’s’ rights coordinator for ActionAid Kenya.

Kola said there was no available data available on the numbers of girls in Kenya travelling to neighbouring countries for FGM as much of it was underground and that it was a new trend.

About 200 million girls and women worldwide have undergone FGM, which usually involves the partial or total removal of the external genitalia, according to the United Nations.

Seen as necessary for social acceptance and increasing a girl’s marriage prospects, FGM is prevalent across parts of Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

In Kenya, one in five women and girls aged between 15 and 49 in Kenya have undergone FGM, says the U.N.

“While some cases have been brought to court under Kenya’s anti-FGM law, implementation remains a challenge, largely due to a lack of resources and capacity of law enforcement agencies and difficulties reaching remote areas,” campaigners say.

U.N. data shows 75 cases of FGM were brought before Kenyan courts in 2016 but only 10 cases resulted in a conviction.

Campaigners said cross-border FGM is being seen among communities such as the Maasai, Pokot and Kuria who live along Kenya’s west and southwestern borders with Uganda and Tanzania.

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