SABINY women are flocking to Kenya to be circumcised. They are doing this because the Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) Act that was passed into law by Parliament in June makes the practice a crime in Uganda.
Offenders face jail terms ranging from five to 10 years or life imprisonment upon conviction.
FGM is internationally recognised as a violation of the human rights of girls and women. FGM has no health benefits for girls and women. Instead it can cause severe bleeding and problems when passing urine and later, childbirth complications and death of newborns.
Why are some Sabiny women risking prison, their lives and those of their unborn babies to be circumcised? It is not hard to see why. It is a classic clash between law and culture.
FGM has been practised for ages in their culture. It is considered a rite of passage to womanhood. It is, therefore, part of their cultural identity. They do not know anything else. One new law is not going to change it overnight. A lot more work needs to be done.
The law alone, however well-intentioned, is woefully inadequate to cause cultural change. The real change must begin in the hearts and minds of the people.
For the law to work, the people must own it and see it as something that helps rather than oppresses them. There are no quick fix solutions.
The law must be accompanied by public education within the cultural context of the Sebei. The message must permeate to every level of the society.
It will not be easy. It will take time, but it can and must be done. Indeed with public education, a growing number of girls and women have been saved from this harmful practice.