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UGANDA: I Am Human, I Have Rights, So Why Mutilate My Genitals

Disclaimer: I come from a community where Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), sometimes sanitised as female circumcision, is unheard of. So, well, I’m intact. But I am a woman. I am human. I have rights and my sensibilities are in place. When I read harrowing tales of the brutality that certain cultures inflict upon women, my heart bleeds.

This traumatic eyewitness account of FGM in Somalia I came across on http://sibelmj.blogspot.com, pierced my very soul: “…after separating her outer and inner lips, the operator, usually a woman experienced in this procedure, sits down facing the child. With her kitchen knife the operator first pierces and slices open the hood of the clitoris. Then she begins to cut it out. While another woman wipes off the blood with a rag, the operator digs with her sharp fingernail a hole the length of the clitoris to detach and pull out the organ. The little girl, held down by the women helpers, screams in extreme pain; but no one pays the slightest attention.

“The operator finishes this job by entirely pulling out the clitoris, cutting it to the bone with her knife. Her helpers again wipe off the spurting blood with a rag. The operator then removes the remaining flesh, digging with her finger to remove any remnant of the clitoris among the flowing blood. The neighbour women are then invited to plunge their fingers into the bloody hole to verify that every piece of the clitoris is removed. This operation is not always well-managed, as the little girl struggles. It often happens that by clumsy use of the knife or a poorly-executed cut the urethra is pierced or the rectum is cut open…”

In our own backyard, New Vision’s Frederick Womakuyu illustrated another numbing account: “…a local female surgeon tried in vain thrice, probably using a very blunt knife, to cut off a girl’s clitoris. She then asked for another, similarly blunt knife and to make it work, applied extra force, going back and forth, the way a saw cuts into timber.”

Now, who would not identify with such excruciating pain? The reasons advanced for FGM are as ridiculous as they are inhuman, such as the belief that the procedure promotes premarital virginity and marital fidelity because it reduces a woman’s libido. The process, as described above, is crude, humiliating, causes physical and psychological pain and in some cases, even death. We cannot even begin to discuss the hygienic conditions.

Uganda has a law that criminalises FGM but in communities like the Sabiny and Pokot, this dreadful act still flourishes and we seem to have detached ourselves from the plight of these tortured girls. By so doing, we are sanctioning brutality that violates our values as human beings and human rights norms. We are also sabotaging the future of these girls.

By letting a culture that essentially reduces a woman to fulfilling her husband’s sexual desires (that is what FGM does) thrive, aren’t we rewriting universal principles of freedom, human rights and dignity? Isn’t this pernicious and insulting to women?
Even as we urge authorities to implement the law, those ferrying girls to Kenya to be mutilated at night must be stopped through strict monitoring. All avenues must be explored to deter communities from practicing FGM and more so, helping families to resist it.

Massive awareness must be carried out specifically in schools, health centres, churches, work places and families for progressive attitude change. We expect our leaders to show more commitment to this cause by funding interventions to save girls.

The campaign against FGM creates an opportunity not only to end this cruelty but also avoid related health problems that plunge thousands of women into perpetual despondency. We must invest in it as an absolutely vital requirement for justice, human dignity and freedom for girls.

SOURCE: Saturday Monitor

AUTHOR: Margaret Vuchiri

URL: Click here

DATE: 17/12/2010

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