BUKWO – As various key players in Uganda continue to work tirelessly towards eliminating Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), an internationally recognized Human Rights violation in the Sebei sub-region and Karamoja region, their struggle has continued to register success as more people are still turning away from this practice by referring to it as a total ‘curse’ to mankind.
Those who include; FGM surgeons, Mentors, Cultural leaders, parents, and girls, after being exposed to civilization and sensitization about the dangers of the practice, have now turned against the practice thereby rallying more members of their Communities to shun this barbaric, inhumane act.
Christine Cherop, 74 years of age, one of the longest serving Mentors of FGM with 24 years experience from Chebinyiny Village, Kaptererwo sub-county in Bukwo district, revealed that the practice doesn’t only end at affecting the victim health-wise, but it also has a very big financial effect to families and the whole community.
“The mentors are paid not less than fifty thousand shillings per girl they handle (covering costs from the start until the healing process), the whole ceremony costs between five to six million shillings (Celebration involves slaughtering of animals, chicken, bags of maize and transportation of several people to various places) which results into a huge financial burden to families,” remarked Cherop
They reformed and turned away from FGM activities in 2000 having mentored over 100 girls into the practice.
“It used to be our source of income but after being sensitized about its dangers by the Government and other key stakeholders, we resorted to farming and preaching the word of God. Many of my other colleagues in other parishes also abandoned the practice and those who are still insisting on it, do it secretly as the majority now cross and do it from the Kenyan side.”
Cherop also noted that abandoning the practice is one of the reasons for making 70, because back in the day she was a drunkard because they used to appreciate mentors with local brew which they concentrated on as they abandoned their homes.
Fred Kissa, a Youth Chairperson from Chebinyiny Parish in Bukwo district at the same time one of the Male Action Group (MAG), says that FGM which used to be seen as a prestigious practice in their area has lost fame considering its effects on victims.
“Ever since FGM was outlawed here, the number of school-going girls has increased, family income has improved in many families, and cases of teenage pregnancy have also dropped down ”
Kissa added that the few still engaged in the practice do it out of ignorance (many didn’t go to school) as well as some are still being misled by self seeking individuals.
Kiplangat Morris, Senior Community Development Officer, Bukwo District Local Government, recognizes the fact that cases of FGM have dropped in the district but expressed the need to find means of addressing the few isolated cases.
The current FGM Act which is being implemented by our law enforcement agencies provides no protection to the whistle-blower or the person who reports the case. The Act refers to any person who witnessed the Genital mutilation exercise as an accomplice which has stopped many people from reporting cases as well as testifying in court as witnesses thereby frustrating the prosecution process.
He therefore urged Parliament to consider amending the FGM Act as soon as possible so as to ease the Prosecution process of all perpetrators.
“It’s not something that we can say that it has died but it has greatly reduced. Currently, as Bukwo district, Amudat district, and our neighbors in Kenya, we are now considering putting in place a by-law that will be used to punish all those who tend to escape justice by running to neighboring areas. Another thing that is still delaying our efforts is the poor road network which has made most of the areas inaccessible.”
Samuel Onange, Action Aid Project officer handling UNFPA-funded projects in the Sebei region, pointed out that FGM practice is high in Bukwo district because of porous borders which are used to smuggle girls out of Uganda to Pokot land (Kenya).
Sam also contends that they have information that whoever takes a girl to Kenya, the perpetrator receives a reward of one hundred thousand shillings per girl.
“The 2010 Anti-FGM Act has played a key role in reducing on the practice. We are in the process of translating this law to local languages used because most of the community members are illiterates who need to know the law.”
Superintendent of Police, Chesang Fred Mark, the Public Relations Officer (PRO) Sipi Region acknowledged that the vice has reduced but they have increased their vigilance to ensure that the vice becomes history in the region.
“Proving a case of FGM is very hard because substantial evidence provided for under the Act cannot easily be acquired due to the fact that the practice is now being done under cover. Although the victim is always subjected to medical examination, it’s hard to get the part of her genital which was cut in the mutilation process to be used as evidence in court.”
That failure to obtain such critical evidence has failed many cases which has given an opportunity to perpetrators to walk free or stay at large.
“There is the limited political will to fight the vice since the majority of the politicians in the area fear to tell people the truth with a view that if they do so, they may lose popularity among the masses.”
Chesang further noted that working with other partners, they are engaging in sensitization campaigns with the aim of eliminating the vice.
Female Genital Mutilation is at times referred to as Female Circumcision. It comprises all procedures that involve total or partial removal of female genital organs for nonmedical reasons.
In Uganda, it is mainly practiced in in districts of Bukwo, Kapchorwa, and Kween (Sebei region) by Sabiny and Karamoja region North Eastern part of Uganda
The victims are girls and women between 15 years to 49 years of age.
In 2010, the prohibition of the Female Genital Mutilation Act was enacted and it outlawed, making it an offense to remove parts of the external female genital for non-medical reasons.