26 June 2008

Uganda: Forced Circumcision Illegal, Says Social Affairs Minister

Kampala — Although circumcision is a cultural practice, it should not be conducted forcibly, social affairs minister Syda Bbumba has said.

She advised people who are forced into the practice to seek legal redress.

"The Government will not tolerate this practice. We support progressive and not retrogressive culture. We have no problem with circumcision but people should not be forced to do so," she said yesterday.

Bbumba was responding to a Wednesday incident in which Stephen Mujoroto, an elderly UPC veteran from Mbale, was "arrested" by five youth for allegedly dodging imbalu, a Gishu cultural circumcision rite.

Mujoroto, the former Nsangi sub-county chief in the Obote Two regime, was seized at the Canaan Restaurant on Uganda House in Kampala.

Bbumba warned that such practices would culminate into chaos.

"I do not think that what they (the Bagisu youth) did was proper.

"If they cannot do it in a peaceful manner, they should not force anybody into a cultural practice that makes a person uncomfortable. If he (Mujoroto) is aware of his rights, he can sue them."

The social affairs minister noted that with health issues at stake, there was need for consent before circumcising someone.

The minister said the Government would meet cultural leaders over the custom.

Aliro Omara of the Uganda Human Rights Commission explained that it was illegal for individuals to be forced into circumcision, saying it was a violation of human rights.

"There is no cultural practice that should break the law or violate human rights.

"Although circumcision is good, it should be voluntary. I know the Bagisu will argue that it is their culture but customs must respect human rights and the law," Commissioner Omara explained yesterday.

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