Monday, January 9, 2012

Though only one community practices FGM unlike her Neighbour Kenya, Uganda Declares War Against Female Genital Mutilation

In Africa, many repugnant cultures are still obtaining. A case in point is the Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), which many women in Uganda are beginning to treat as an affront on their dignity and Human rights. The good news for the Ugandan women is that this practice only affects one ethnic group, the Sabiny who live in the present day Sebei districts of eastern Uganda.

Civil Society organizations and women Activists in Uganda have over the years launched a spirited fight against FGM and a lot of resources have been used as incentives to make the local population shun FGM and success was being scored in this fight. FGM in these areas of Eastern Uganda is carried out as a ritual to initiate young girls into womanhood. It involves the cruel procedure of mutilating the genitals of young girls of 10 years and above, where the clitoris and vital parts of the vaginal opening are literally mutilated with sharp knives as the affected girls are cheered on by their mothers and fathers. This is followed up by some primitive sewing up of whatever has been left of the mutilation.

Effects of FGM on young Girls

Some of the girls bleed to death while others get permanent complications which later affect their child birth, putting not only their unborn babies at risk, but also themselves. This practice has made FGM a serious social and health problem for the Ugandan Sabiny.

The other serious social and health problem of FGM among the Sabiny is that the mutilations leave the women deprived of the sexual pleasures. Sex becomes purely a reproductive gesture completely devoid of pleasure. The irony of it all is that many Sabiny men have started marrying women from other ethnic backgrounds where FGM is not practiced just because they think; their women are not sexy enough.

Many of the young girls have also been infected during the act of FGM itself because most of the knives used for circumcision are generally reused on many other individuals without sterilization. The local FGM surgeons are mainly illiterate old women who know very little about how HIV spreads.
In December 2009, following the persistent demand by women activists supported by Civil Society Organizations working among the Sabiny, a bill was passed in the Ugandan parliament prohibiting the practice of FGM in Uganda. According to this bill, any person convicted for involvement in FGM acts will be jailed for up to 10 years. Where a FGM procedure results into death of the victim, the person involved would be jailed for life. The Bill also criminalizes parents who consent to FGM to be performed on their daughters.

Many parents consent to FGM because girls who have been mutilated attract a higher bride prize, so parents are lured by the expectation of bride wealth out of their young girls. Ugandans have warmly received the clump down on FGM. We hope other parts of the world join us in this repugnant cultural practice.

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Ambassador Lucy Mashua
Assisting and advocating for U.S. refugees and women’s rights
Global Ambassador for Ending Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)
Leading the Worldwide Campaign Against FGM
Lobbying for HR 2221:The Girl's Protection Act sponsored by Rep. Joseph Crowley and Rep. Mary Bono Mack. and S 1919 introduced by Senator Harry Reid,