28 December 2010

Uganda: Let Us Empower the Sabiny Girls to Fight FGM


IN my December 15, 2009 New Vision article titled Sensitise girls on female circumcision, I foresaw what happened recently - a violation of the law criminalising female genital mutilation (FGM). A total of 120 girls were recently circumcised in Bukwo district despite the ban on FGM.

In my opinion, the policy passed to criminalise FGM was rushed and inadequately planned. Statitistics on FGM clearly portray a responding community to awareness programmes. So, this means that passing a policy criminalising FGM or banning it signified that there was difficulty in influencing behavioural change.

There was need for mass sensitisation on the detrimental effects of FGM to those that continued to practice it rather than focus on sensitising the population on the would be offence (criminalising the act). This led to the creation of a violent group opposed to the policy. Criminalising the act implied that offenders would be prosecuted and once convicted could be sentenced to jail terms.

Uganda's objective is to eradicate FGM by 2015. This is achievable. However, I urge the concerned authorities to re-think the strategy. They should first study these communities and find out why they are practising FGM.

I recently asked a 60-year-old why the practice was carried out and he said: "It was hoped that it would tame the women's sexual desires since we (the men) had to move long distances grazing our animals. Therefore, it would prevent the women from being unfaithful to their husbands. However, I vowed to my wife that none of our children will ever undergo the tradition."

The solution lies with the girls themselves. The girls in these communities need to be empowered by being educated and getting employment. For example, a survey in Kenya found a fourfold drop in FGM rates among girls who had secondary education. I urge the President to help set up a special fund to educate all the Sabiny girls.

The writer is a marketing specialist

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