UGANDA: Law Not Effective In Fighting FGM

A woman has been sentenced to four months in prison for circumcising eight girls in Bukwo District.

Margaret Chemutai, 65, defied the law that bans practising Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Uganda. Appearing before court, she pleaded guilty to the charges but also had two defences.

One, it was her job to circumcise girls and she was ignorant of the law. Two, the girls' parents asked her to mutilate them. This means the fight against FGM cannot be won by the law alone. It is going to take education and sensitisation to change the people's mindset.

FGM has for years been part of the Sabiny culture. People cherish it as a rite of passage and are going to take the risk to defy the law. That explains why parent go to the extent of asking surgeons to carry out the operation on their daughters.

Following the ban in Uganda, there are reports that some parents send their daughters to neighbouring Kenya where they are mutilated. In some extreme cases, the girls are driven by the self-desire and don't want to be ostracised for failing to fulfil the cultural rite. They therefore demand to be circumcised.

Willing surgeons like Chemutai who have been living off the crude practice become another obstacle in the enforcement of the law. She probably is the only unlucky one to be arrested while many others circumcise the girls and keep them in confinement. Detection by the law enforcers and anti-FGM activities is difficult under such circumstances.

Uganda has done the right thing to legislate against the FGM, a practice that dehumanises women and is also dangerous to their health. What is needed more is an effective campaign to change minds.


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DATE: 17/12/2010

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