February 25, 2014

Anti-FGM Law Yields Fruits In Sebei, Karamoja

The enactment of Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation -FGM Act has helped to considerably reduce the practice among the communities in the Sebei and Karamoja sub regions, according to the United Nations.

Female Genital Mutilation being practiced in Uganda
Female Genital Mutilation being practiced in Uganda

FGM is the cultural practice of totally or partially removing the external genitalia of women and girls.

In Uganda, it is practiced by the Sabiny in the districts of Kapchorwa, Kween and Bukwo where 50 percent of women and girls undergo FGM. Among the Pokot in the districts of Amudat, Nakapiripirit and Moroto, 95 percent of women and girls undergo the practice.

According to the United Nations Population Fund-UNFPA, an agency championing the fight against FGM in the region, since 2010 when the FGM Act was enacted, mutilators are now shying away from the practice.

Florence Apuri Auma, the UNFPA Gender Team Leader, says most of them including the victims are now conducting their exercise at night to evade the law.

Apuri says that to date, 236 communities have made commitments to abandon FGM across the six FGM practicing districts.

In Sebei region, a group of over 70 elders and leaders made public declarations to abandon FGM, but also support FGM abandonment activities during the Sabiny Cultural day early this month.

One of the elders, Yafesi Kapshaban, said that they have realized that the practice can have immediate and lasting consequences on women and girls’ health, education and income-earning potential.

Local Leaders say that it is education, not genital cutting that should be the new alternative for measuring the value of girls and women.

Kapshaban argues that the communities should now value education more, as a means of protecting girls from FGM because it is a ticket to child marriage and consequently teenage pregnancy.

Once a girl is cut, she is initiated into adulthood irrespective of her age.  Girls as young as 8 years are usually cut. On the cutting day men and families identify a potential bride, who in most cases is married off as soon as or even before she is healed.

In other instances, girls are running away from FGM during the cutting period. UNFPA says between 2012 and 2013, close to 1000 girls ran away to seek refuge in schools which government has designated as ‘Safety Centres in the six districts where the practice is rampant.

Rachael Chebet, a 15 year-old girl who survived being cut in December last year, says she sought refuge at Kortek Girls Secondary school in Bukwo district. She said she escaped at night when they wanted to mutilate her. She now wants to pursue education as the only option.

Another survivor, 17-year-old Emily Chelengat urges other girls in the practicing communities to embrace education and avoid FGM. She says once cut they will be denied a chance to education which she argues is the pillar to life.

In partnership with the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, and with support from the French Embassy, the Global Trust Fund, and other partners, Apuri says UNFPA has concentrated on informing the public about the existence of this law, building capacity for enforcement, and raising awareness about the consequences of FGM.

She explains that between 2012 and 2013, more than 65,147 people were reached with information on laws against FGM and potential redress and accountability mechanism.

More than 68,486 people were reached with information on the harmful effects of FGM through training, outreaches, exchange visits, FGM role model, cultural days’ events, drama, music and sports.

Early this month, a US based charity organisation, Clitoraid, announced that it was planning to establish the first hospital to repair FGM victims in Burkina Faso.

According to the World Health Organisation, more than 125 million girls and women alive today have been cut in the 29 countries in Africa and Middle East where FGM is concentrated. About 92 million girls aged 10 and above have undergone FGM.

The FGM Act 2010 provides for the prohibition of FGM, the offences, prosecution and punishment of offenders and protection of victims as well as girls and women under threat of FGM and other related matters.

It provides that a person who carries out FGM is liable on conviction to imprisonment not exceeding ten years, while in the event of causing death to the victim the person is liable to life imprisonment for aggravated FGM.

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