After the successful implementation of a law against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Uganda two years ago and in Kenya last year, plans are underway to implement a FGM law at a regional level, Dora Byamukama, a legislator at the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) member has said.
“One of the fundamental principles of the East African treaty is that member states observe human rights which include women’s rights. This principle also calls for legislation against harmful practices like FGM. In line with this principle, we have adopted a resolution urging East African partner states to legislate against FGM.”
She was recently speaking during the opening of activities to mark this year’s International Day of zero tolerance against FGM at the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) offices in Kampala.
This year’s celebrations were held in Amudat District January 6 under the theme: Community Approach
Byamukama said the presence of laws against FGM in Uganda and Kenya will ease the cross boarder implementation of legislation against this practice. She however calls for serious enforcement efforts to ensure that the law is successfully implemented.
“Havingthe laws is good but without enforcement, it will come to nothing.” She called on all stakeholders to work together to support initiatives against FGM and behavioural change to ensure success in the anti FGM campaign.
Janet Jackson, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Country representative called for community action in the fight against FGM.
“We all know that attitudes for such a deeply rooted cultural ritual take a long time to change. This is why we need more consistent and vigilant community mobilisation to create awareness against the act,” she said.
According to the United Nations, while FGM is practiced by less than 1% of the total population, the practice is still prevalent in the Eastern and Northern parts of Uganda where 95% of the Pokot and 50% of Sabiny women experience it. The UN says that FGM is also widely practiced among the Tepeth in Moroto.
Jackson says that this year’s theme draws attention to the important role that communities have in fighting this barbaric vice.
Beatrice Chelangat, A renowned anti FGM activist said that since 1988 when anti FGM campaigns started, a lot of success has been achieved but concerted effort is still required to concretise the gains that have so far been obtained.
“We have come a long way and through all the efforts attained we are now proud to be sending Sabiny girls but we need to work together to improve the situation,” she said.
At the World FGM day held at Pokot Secondary School in Amudat district many women who had previously been actively involved in FGM reiterated their commitment to abandon the practice.
In a symbolic gesture meant to indicate their resolve, a group of FGM surgeons surrendered their knifes to the minister of state for gender and cultural affairs, Rukia Isanga Nakadama. Young school going children also reiterated their commitment to stay in school longer to ensure that they avoid the knife.
Community leaders however reiterated the need for stronger support from the Government and other development partners to provide more support at various initiatives to stop FGM in the district. There is growing concern that despite the spirited efforts to stop the practice, it still continues albeit underground especially now that law enforcement officers have been involved. Community workers officials call for more public senstisation about this law.
“The anti FGM law is good but it is not very clear on serious punitive measures needed to take against the offenders, the local people also do not understand it very well,” Peter Omwony Obonyo, a project officer with one of the local NGOs in Karamoja sub-region says.
The campaign to kick FGM among the Pokot and Tepeth started only last year and continues to make impact. This can be attributed to among other things, the increased efforts by various organisations to involve the communities in efforts to stop the practice.
Even then, more remains to be done as the practice seems to have been taken underground. More support from the Government is needed and particularly from local politicians and area MPs.
What the Amudat community says about FGM
Chemtai Kaidar(LEFT)i, 19, a student, Amudat District
When my parents learnt of the law against FGM, they got scared.
That is how I escaped the knife. I have now resolved never to support this practice. It puts women’s lives at risk.
Lotuu John(RIGHT), 17, a student
FGM is bad because when time comes for a woman who has been cut to give birth; it becomes very difficult for them to produce because they will have been damaged.
It is dangerous to women’s health.
Margaret Kapkoikoi(LEFT), Karita sub-county, an elder
I was inspired to start cutting girls by my mother in law.
It was profitable business. It will be a difficult practice to abandon unless we find better ways to survive and practice our culture.
Mary Chepokarial(Right), circumcised woman, 39
FGM has been so central to our lives and culture that uncircumcised women were always laughed at.
You would never be married. It has not been easy to stop because it is part of our culture.
Martha Mutikat(LEFT), midwife, Amudat Hospital
I grew up in Amudat.
I survived FGM because my Christian parents protected me from the cutters and sent me to school.
This practice has no place in our society. It is an abuse of womens’ human rights