- COURT OUTLAWS FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION
Uganda constitutional court has declared the practice of female genital
mutilation unconstitutional and against human rights.
Five judges led by the deputy chief justice Leticia Kikonyogo noted that the practice is not in accordance with the international treaties.
A Non Governmental Organisation, Human Rights Advocacy for Women in Uganda petitioned court in April 2007 seeking nullification orders against the practice which they claim has no medical benefits whatsoever.
However, the State conceded to the matter during the hearing.
The Advocates say the custom which is commonly practiced amongst the Eastern Uganda tribes is done by unprofessional surgeons without anaesthesia which cases unexplainable pain and increases the risk of HIV and AIDS due to unsterilised instruments used.
- Bill Introduced to Criminalize FGM
After 500 young women in
Uganda (WOMENSENEWS)--Earlier this month a member of
Chris Baryomunsi, a doctor elected to Parliament three years ago, says he has gained overwhelming support so far from male and female legislators throughout the country for the bill, receiving endorsements from members of many different backgrounds.
A key backer is the Parliament's deputy speaker Rebecca Kadaga, who has
dedicated 2009 as the year to end female genital mutilation, also known as
Rukia Nadama, the state minister for gender and cultural affairs, has also endorsed the bill. She is working with leaders of the Sabiny and Pokot communities--where the majority of these rites are carried out--to educate them about the health risks associated with the cuttings, such as high rates of maternal and child mortality during childbirth, HIV transmission and the potential for these mutilations to cause fatal bleeding.
Baryomunsi expects the bill to win the two-thirds support needed for its passage and for it to become law by September or October of this year.
The Ugandan government launched an anti-FGM awareness campaign with the United Nations Population Fund in the mid-1990s, which used billboards, radio and school curricula to disseminate information about the practice.
But the country did not outlaw the practice.
"We haven't received any resistance so far or had anyone portray this in a negative light," said Baryomunsi in a recent interview with Women's eNews. "I am aware that if you don't do adequate mobilization it might go underground and people might do it in dark corners. But we'll intensify our education campaigns in the communities."
Although female mutilation appeared to be on the decline in
The Sabiny community performs the mutilations in December during even-number years. Its practice is among the most extreme, involving the removal of the entire labia.
Sharp Increase in 2008
Last December, 500 young women in the community were put through the mutilation, a sharp increase from 90 women in 2006.
The Pokot, a pastoral community in northeastern
Although the origin of the practice is unknown, some cultural historians, Baryomunsi says, have linked it to the community's hunting culture. This theory holds that the Sabiny community wanted to prevent women from experiencing sexual pleasure to inhibit infidelity during hunting expeditions. The practice eventually developed as a way to initiate girls into womanhood.
"In December, I felt such pain and sadness that women, some
unwillingly and others willingly, were subjected to crude methods of having
their bodies cut when there is no medical benefit," said Baryomunsi.
"I've talked to women who are maimed and crippled because of FGM. As a
leader and member of parliament, I wanted to do something to stop the abuse
of women's human rights in
The bill would make it illegal to perform genital mutilations on girls.
Traditional practitioners could be imprisoned for up to 10 years.
The bill imposes harsher penalties on medical doctors and parents. If either attempts a mutilation, they could face prison sentences as high as 15 years. If a girl dies during the procedure, the surgeon administering it could be imprisoned for life. The bill also says that the consent of the girl or young woman will not be a valid defense in court, given the health risks of the practice.
Baryomunsi hopes the bill will offer financial and cultural support to women who currently work as surgeons for the Sabiny and Pokot communities during the season when these mutilations occur.
The surgeons, traditionally elderly women who help perform the initiation rites, make between $25 and $50 per mutilation and rely on the ritual for their livelihoods.
Baryomunsi plans to coordinate with the Ugandan government to set up alternative livelihood programs for the former surgeons.