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UGANDA: Anti-Female Genital Mutilation Bill Ready for Debate

Kampala A Bill outlawing female genital mutilation is ready to be presented to the House for the second reading and be passed into law, MPs have been told.

Addressing a regional parliamentary workshop on the theme "Consolidating political will for child well being" at Imperial Royale Hotel yesterday, the chairperson of the committee on gender, Beatrice Lagada, blamed the practice for the high drop out rates in Universal Primary Education (UPE).

She urged people in communities where the practice is still rampant to report perpetrators and parents who subject their girl-children to genital mutilation. Upon conviction for indulging in the practice, one faces a maximum jail term of 10 years.

The workshop was attended by MPs from Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, DR Congo, and the Speaker of the East African legislative assembly. It was organised by the East African community secretariat, Parliament of Uganda and European Parliamentarians for Africa.

"We are done with scrutinising the Bill and are ready to present it for the second reading. I assure you that the will to pass it is there," Lagada said.

She noted that when they consulted communities where the practice is being carried out on the Bill, women and girls wanted a stricter punishment beyond 10 years for perpetrators, while the men wanted the punishment reduced to two years, a sign that women are forced into the practice.

She proposed that alternative means of livelihood be provided for the "surgeons" that used to live off the practice.

"In some areas we found UPE schools without a single girl because when they heal, at about 10 or 12 years, they are married off because they are considered mature.

Lagada called for sensitisation to change the mindsets of mothers who also underwent the practice.

"In one of the areas we went, a retired magistrate was campaigning for retention of the practice," she said.

Lagada argued that neighbouring countries like Kenya, where "expert surgeons" are got, should out-law the practice.

East African assembly Speaker Abdirahin Haithar blamed persistence of abuse of children's rights to lack of enforcement of existing laws on their rights.

"That is why children are still being abused through child labour and sexual exploitation. Some are also denied education and immunisation despite them being free, leaving many dead before their 5th birthday," he said.

East Africa Legislative Assembly MP Dorah Byamukama said female genital mutilation had dire consequences for the girl-child like haemorrhage, infections, pain and acute urine retention, thrives on unfounded cultural beliefs.

"The body part that is mutilated is comparable to the man's penis. If it was men's penises that were being cut, the practice would have been stopped a long time ago," she said.

The chairperson of the HIV/AIDS committee, Beatrice Rwakimari prayed that the enactment of the law stops the "outdated " practice.

Lydia Wanyoto castigated women activists who personalise women's causes in order to win international awards.

Copyright © 2009 New Vision. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com).

URL: http://allafrica.com/stories/200912020604.html

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