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UGANDA: Patriarchy Fuels Female Circumcision

A lot has been said about Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). Many people argue that unless a girl has this procedure done, she is not a woman and that removal of the practice would lead to the demise of their culture.

But what has been the role of men in perpetuating FGM? Can we start to give FGM a male face and work around boys and men’s selfishness and cultural myths that perpetuate it?

It is important to demystify the myth that unless a girl has this procedure done, she is not a woman. Some view the clitoris and the labia as male parts on a female body, thus removal of these parts enhances femininity of the girl.

The practice raises human rights issues because it is girls aged four to ten who are Circumcised. Some Sabin men believe that unless a woman has undergone this procedure she is unclean and will not be allowed to handle food and water.

There is also a belief that if the clitoris touches a man’s penis the man will die. Another belief is that if a baby’s head touches the clitoris the baby will die or the breast milk will be poisonous!

I am happy that individual MPs have drafted a Bill seeking to criminalise the practice. However, it should be noted that the law alone will not stop the practice. Some countries like Egypt criminalised the practice a long time ago but the practice still continues todate.

I am concerned that Government has not taken the initiative to enact a specific law that criminalises FGM, yet the practice is spreading like wild fire now being practiced in Karamoja, Isingiro, Kamwenge and Masindi. This makes the need for a national law more imperative.

This calls for a comprehensive approach to the problem by recognising that it contravenes international human rights standards that preserve the rights of women and Children.

There is need to educate adolescent men about the dangers of the practice so as to get their support by playing on their selfishness.

Equally important is the need to create an alternative source of income for the ‘surgeons’ and mentors to entice them abandon this old harmful tradition.

The writer is the policy advocacy officer; Uganda Women’s Network

SOURCE: New Vision Online

AUTHOR: Andrew Bahemuka

URL: Click here

DATE: 13/03/2009

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