Speaking during a workshop organised by Uganda Women Parliamentary Association recently, former MP for Bunyole West, Mr Jacob Wangolo, revealed that Karimojong and Sebei communities practicing Female Genital Mutilation have changed tactics. He said women are now cut by traditional birth attendants after giving birth and that many girls practice FGM in hidden or remote places while others cross the border via Amudat District and get cut in Kenya, making it difficult to track them. (See Daily Monitor December 22 'Ugandan girls taken to Kenya for FGM.)
According to the Prohibition of the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2010, a person who carries out female genital mutilation commits an offence and is liable on conviction to imprisonment not exceeding 10 years. A person who carries out female genital mutilation on herself, or attempts to carry out female genital mutilation, one who procures, counsels, aids, abets, induces, coerces, threatens or under false pretence carries out female genital mutilation commits an offence and is liable on conviction to imprisonment.
With such an Act, one would think this abhorrent practice would have been completely stopped by now. Unfortunately, data collected by United Nations International Child Emergency Fund in 2014 shows an increase in cases of FGM.
Clearly crafting laws is not enough. More has to be done. Female genital mutilation is part of culture of the said tribes and can, therefore, only be stopped gradually through constant sensitisation and education, especially of the girl-child. Communities, apart from being threatened with imprisonment and fines, must continually be sensitised about the demerits of this and other illegal and unhealthy practices.
It is through mindset change that girls will not succumb to witch-hunting by older clansmen simply because they have not undergone FGM. Government and non-governmental organisations should not be demoralised by what seems like a pointless war. Persistent senstisation and education of masses plus implementation of existing laws without fear or favour is the best way to fight FGM.
Those at the forefront of this fight should also seek to understand the societies they are dealing with by integrating and creating rapport with community members. This builds trust and an easy working relationship. This way, the people will know that the fight against FGM is not to desecrate their culture but rather to stop what is an abhorrent act of human rights abuse. With trust gained, perpetrators of FGM can be weeded out and others won over into giving up the practice and influencing many others to do the same.