Monday February 27 2012

Sabiny defy the law to circumcise their daughters

By David Mafabi

The Sabiny communities are in preparation for the new season to circumcise girls, unaware of the law prohibiting Female Genital Mutilation to which President Museveni appended his signature on March 17, 2010.

In Bukwo District on February 15, in the villages of Kapses, Sosho, parts of Suam, Kapkorosoy, Kapkuripson and Kabei and Kwanyiny and Benet sub-counties in Kapchorwa District, preparations were in full gear sending fears that the local people might never drop FGM.

Lazaro Chelimo, 68, of Kabei said he did not know about the law prohibiting the culture of the Sabiny, “We have not seen anybody here, nobody has told us to abandon this culture inherited from our ancestors to keep the morality of our girls,” he says.

“This year I have two daughters to circumcise in December and I have started preparing the girls for initiation into adulthood. Nothing is going to stop me from circumcising my daughters because their mother, grandmother and sisters have undergone this,” said Chelimo.

“What does the law say about our culture? Should we abandon the culture of our ancestors? Get out of my home; I don’t want to see you, you must be one of the people campaigning against this and tell others that the Sabiny will circumcise their girls as the culture demands,” added Chelimo as I slowly withdrew from his home to the next village.

Chelimo is just a representative of the many parents who are preparing for this year’s cultural days for FGM where many a parent is determined to go against the law. Under the new law the Female Genital Mutilation promoters and surgeons ace five years imprisonment, life imprisonment and permanent banishment from the community.

The new law termed, “Kapchorwa District abolition of female Genital Mutilation Bill” tabled before Parliament early March, 2010, the Sabiny sought to abolish, criminalise and punish any act pertaining to the practice of FGM and to establish a basis upon which to deter and discourage any coerced or voluntary entry into the act.

Under the Bill any person who performs, promotes FGM through any means violates the human rights of a woman and as such commits an offence and shall upon conviction be liable, where no other penalty is provided in other laws of Uganda imprisonment up to five years, a fine or both.

But according to Bukwo District population officer and researcher with FGM, Simon Alere, the biggest population living in the rural remote areas of Kabei, Bukwo parts of Suam, Chesower (Bukwo) and Kwanyiny, Benet where the culture originated from (Kween and Kapchorwa) and where the people value the practice so much, have no information or knowledge about the law.

“There was a time the Parliamentary committee of gender came here to talk about FGM but they only addressed us and the councillors but in the villages people are asking how the law was passed without consulting them,” said Alere.

“People are saying the law is harsh, unfair and needs to be amended until all the people are aware of the law in place against a culture that is deep rooted amongst the people.
“Otherwise for now it is going to be like any other law where people are aware the law is there forbidding a certain crime but they commit the crime even when they know the consequences,” added Alere.

Although the new law also intends to establish appropriate and administrative measures to uphold the sexual rights and dignity of women and girls in the district and also modify customs of passage into womanhood, the cultural illiterate Sabiny insist there is no other way to womanhood known to keep morality of women apart from FGM.

Alere says many a leader contend that FGM is dominant and culturally held with high esteem amongst the illiterates and requires a lot of sensitisation against FGM addressing all stakeholders and adoption of an advocacy campaign to educate, sensitise every Sabiny to disown the practice and discard it forthwith in order to have a ray of hope ahead.

Ezekiel Chemonges says many cultural people have started plans of circumcising their children at night or in the bushes after arrangement with local surgeons in bid to evade the law against the practice in Uganda.

But Beatrice Chelangat of the Reproductive Education and Community Health (REACH), a community based NGO established in Kapchorwa to improve the reproductive health conditions and discard the harmful practice of FGM consents that although sensitisation has taken place and people are aware, there are also sections of people not yet informed and those willing to break the law.