Women too should be protected against FGM
Despite the existence of the Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act (2010), both women and girls in the whole of Sebei sub region are being subjected to FGM. The continued practice is being attributed to the lack of protection from stigma and discrimination of women and girls that have not undergone FGM. The spouses of uncircumcised women are also stigmatized as they are prohibited from participating in certain cultural and social activities.
It is such pressures from society, family members, in laws and spouses according to the CEWIGO Gender Activists in Kween, Bukwo and Kapchorwa that even force married women to present themselves for circumcision in a bid to meet the social standards. While circumcision of boys was at its peak in December 2018, CEWIGO established that women and girls were being mutilated too.
According to article 11 of the Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act (2010), a person who discriminates against or stigmatizes a female who has not undergone FGM from engaging or participating in any economic, social, political or other activities in the community commits an offence and is liable on conviction to imprisonment not exceeding five years and Article 12 provides for the protection of persons whose wives, daughters or female relatives have not undergone FGM.
The law enforcement agencies were finding it difficult to intervene since gathering adequate evidence to put the culprits (surgeons, survivors and all those facilitating the process) to book due to collaboration between the family members, surgeons, mentors and the women and girls themselves. The cutting was reportedly taking place at night by the end of last year. The fact that FGM is now being practiced in broad day light is an indicator that implementation of the Prohibition of the Female Genital Mutilation Act that has been in existence for over eight years needs to be accelerated.
In today’s New Vision, it was reported that armed gangs were forcibly mutilating girls but it should be understood that women are also being circumcised. Why should the Government of Uganda keep a deaf ear about the ongoing acts of FGM after injecting a lot of resources in formulation of the Act followed by the Regulations and the Ordinances at Local Government level that outlaw the practice? Why should such impunity be tolerated yet according to Article 6 of the Act, any person who procures, induces or threats or under false presence carries out FGM commits an offence. What then is the future of women and girls who are not protected by the laws that were generated in good spirit to protect them from violence? It has also been reported that some girls and women from the boarder communities like Bukwo cross over to Kenya for treatment yet Kenya also out lawed the practice. A group of women that preferred anonymity also informed CEWIGO that there is a cultural tree that flowered in 2016
yet it is not expected to flower during even years when boys are meant to be circumcised. The community members that sill subscribe to FGM believed that the spirits were annoyed since women and girls are no longer being mutilated.
Much as there is a number of activities to fight FGM are ongoing with support of different partners for example CEWIGO that is currently working community activists to improve awareness about the dangers of FGM and to improve reporting of FGM related activities, more practical strategies with the leadership of government need to be undertaken to accelerate the fight against FGM. These among others include continuous awareness raising to change people’s mindset, grants for promoting formal education for girls, INTERPOL partnering with other agencies to trail offenders and suspects, obtaining finger prints in collaboration with those mutilated to enable police to generate adequate proof, alternative means of livelihoods to surgeons and mentors and engaging the cultural institutions including elders to pronounce themselves against FGM.
Article by Prudence Atukwatse