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UGANDA: Criminalise Female Genital Mutilation

The media recently reported a case of a woman from Sebei who developed a permanent disability resulting from female genital mutilation.

Genital mutilation among the Sabiny is a ritual that marks the transformation of a girl into a woman ready for marriage.

Fulfilling one’s cultural practices creates a sense of belonging. But every culture has positive and negative aspects. There are cultural practices that protect human rights and others that violate people’s rights.

Respect for culture is important but practices that are detrimental to the physical and mental well-being of its members should not be tolerated. The enjoyment of the right to practice culture should not result in negation of other rights.

The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child has classified female genital mutilation as the cruellest and severest form of torture against girls and young women.

Most parts of Ethiopia used to have high rates of female genital mutilation. Women victims were experiencing a lot of difficulty during child birth and some contracted HIV during the process. The government responded by making reforms in focal sectors to curtail the vice. Three years down the road, incidences of maternal mortality and HIV transmission resulting from the ritual have declined drastically.

The first step was to criminalise female genital mutilation. This was successfully done by having it included in the country’s criminal code. Perpetrators undergo imprisonment for a period not exceeding three years. This has gone a long way in deterring many from performing this ritual.

Girls and women were empowered to fight female genital mutilation themselves through support by civil society organisations. This built their confidence as they took a lead in the defence of their rights.

Awareness campaigns were also conducted to break the silence on the impact of female genital mutilation on individual development of girls and the society as a whole. Initially, girls had been socialised from birth to accept the inferior status and the necessity of subscribing to female genital mutilation. Thus, they had resisted efforts to end female genital mutilation. However, criminalising the practice and awareness campaigns changed the attitude of society. We should also follow the above steps to combat female genital mutilation.

SOURCE: New Vision Online

AUTHOR: Anslem Wandega

URL: Click here

DATE: 02/08/2008

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