What you need to know:
It is important that the law swings into action in dealing with perpetrators to reinforce the fact that Uganda has no place for the selfish cultural practice that deny women their dignity
The government has expressed worry over the resurgence of female genital mutilation (FGM), especially among the Sabiny and Karimojong. In Sebei and Karamoja, the cultural vice is said to have shot up from 0.3 percent before the start of the Covid-19 pandemic and its attendant challenges to 52 percent currently (Govt raises alarm over rise in female genital mutilation, Daily Monitor, November 24, 2021).
FGM involves the partial or total removal of external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. The practice has no health benefits for girls and women. Per cultural practices, FGM is a long-standing cultural practice, which continues for reasons that vary from place to place and heritage to heritage.
FGM, which is mostly carried out on young girls between infancy and age 15, was believed to be a rite of passage into womanhood. However, the main intention in the past was to enforce fidelity and chastity among women. The practice is generally tied to beliefs about acceptable sexual behaviour – to deter promiscuity, etc.
Besides wanton violation of inherent human rights, FGM can cause severe bleeding and problems with urinating, and later cysts, infections, as well as complications in childbirth and increased risk of newborn deaths, according to the World Health Organisation.
The Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development has started championing the 16 days of activism against gender-based violence. And while the stakeholders will be driving their point through the campaign, of much importance is the need to spell out in clear terms that FGM is illegal and those involved in forcing girls and women onto the knife contravene the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda (1995) that protects women and their rights under Article 33 and specifically prohibits under 33(6) “laws, cultures, customs or traditions which are against the dignity, welfare or interest of women or which undermine their status.”
Specifically, FGM was criminalised in Uganda vide the Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act 2010. The practice also contravenes Section 6 of the Children Act 1997 that prohibits and punishes harmful customary or cultural practices as follows: “A person shall not expose a child to any customary or cultural practice that is harmful to his or her health, wellbeing, education or socio-economic development.”
Over the years, several documented accounts and confessions of victims of FGM have showed the need to completely wipeout the practice. Women have spoken of pain and frigidity in their personal lives. The 16 days of activism against gender-based violence could not have come at the most opportune time. As stakeholders create awareness, it is important that the law swings into action in dealing with perpetrators during this campaign to reinforce the fact that Uganda has no place for the selfish cultural practice that deny women their dignity.