05/13/2011 08:58 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Kenya's Rape Beading: Activist Battles Dangerous Tribal Tradition For Young Girls

Intricately beaded necklaces have been a symbol of Kenyan national pride for generations. But as CNN discovers, the necklaces have a more sinister implication for girls in the nation's Samburu tribe.

Activist Josephine Kulea says the process of "beading" -- in which men, including close family relatives, can approach a girl's parents with red Samburu beads and place the necklace around a girl's neck -- can lead to rape, unwanted pregnancies and even the deaths of newborns. "Effectively he has booked her," says Kulea, a member of the Samburu herself. "It is like a [temporary] engagement, and he can then have sex with her." Samburu culture dictates that girls be engaged to a relative, she notes, and they are allowed to have sex with him, but "they are not allowed to get pregnant and there is no preventative measures."

Many girls are subjected to crude abortions if they do get pregnant, and for those who do give birth, their infants "end up dying or being killed or being given away." Still, one father defended the practice, saying that beading is aimed at stopping promiscuity among young girls. "This is our culture," he says. "It is part of us. And we have been practicing it, and we accept that these girls should be beaded, and sometimes the girls just get pregnant."