18 February 2013

Uganda: The Fight Against FGM Is Everyone's Responsibility

I remember when I was still young, whenever a discussion on Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) came up, some of my colleagues pointed fingers at me and some were bold enough to ask if I have been circumcised.

I got tired of explaining that I was from a culture where we circumcise only men. In my mind it was so shameful to mutilate female genitalia that I did not want to associate with it. But this was a culture practiced by some people.

There are some dangerous cultural practices that have persisted. FGM is one such culture. The Pokot, Tepeth of Kenya and Sabiny in Uganda still practice FGM despite the glaring dangers. Female genital mutilation involves removing part or all female genetalia.

In Uganda, research suggests that 1% of the population practices FGM although 95% of women in the practicing communities are affected. It is a practice performed on a girl to show that she is fully grown into a woman and, therefore, ready for marriage. A girl who has not been mutilated is not allowed to get grain from the granary and worse still she cannot get married.

The effects of this practice are adverse. The women that get involved in FGM are exposed to HIV/AIDS and other infections, formation of scar tissue that affects child delivery, paralysis, psychological trauma and even death due to severe bleeding.

There have been efforts by the Government and other national and international organizations to stamp out this practice among the affected communities but is all still 'a work in progress.' The Government passed a law against FGM in 2009 and there is an FGM Act to guide the implementation of this law. The Kapchorwa District Local Government Ordinance (2008) was also passed to abolish FGM but more importantly there are community awareness campaigns against FGM.

International bodies like the UNFPA have carefully drafted messages against the dangers of genital mutilations that are aired over radio stations in these communities. Although the first attempts against this practice were almost futile as more girls chose to undergo mutilation after the campaigns, there is registered improvement. But between 1992 and 2012, there has been great improvement. In 2012 some local surgeons denounced the practice. The affected communities are more aware of the dangers of the practice.

Recently Uganda joined the rest of the World to intensify global efforts to eliminate of FGM".

Since the government has put legislations in place to address this issue, it is therefore everyone's responsibility to make sure the practice is eradicated. The local leaders should be supported to continuously encourage their people to shun the practice because of its adverse effects.

Schools should be encouraged to continue highlighting the dangers of this practice so that girls get discouraged from the practice.

The writer works with Uganda Media Centre

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