By Kathryn Reid; Edited by Leanna Cappiello
Traditions are strong among the Pokot people in northwest Kenya. But one tradition in particular can leave lasting damage.
Female genital mutilation (FGM)" also known as "cutting' or "female circumcision'" is the practice of cutting off a girl's external genitalia for nonmedical reasons. The practice is done with a razor blade or knife, often with no anesthesia and no disinfectant. The "cut' can cause severe pain, bleeding, and swelling that may prevent normal hygiene practices.
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Though the scars may heal, the horror of the event, including being physically restrained against her will, can affect a young girl for years. She often suffers from chronic pain and infections. She may be only 12 or 13, but after the cut, she's considered ready to marry. She's offered as a bride for the price of goats, cows, and camels. She and the children she bears (often way too soon) are at risk for birth complications caused by FGM.
Despite being outlawed in 2011, girls in remote Kenya are still enduring this practice.
But some are working hard to change this rite of passage.