Thursday, November 5, 2009
November 04, 2009 By Irene Banusoba - The New Vision THE United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) have launched a joint program to end female genital mutilation (FGM) by 2012 [in Uganda]. FGM involves partial or total removal of the external female genitalia commonly practiced as a cultural passage to womanhood by some ethnic groups in Uganda. The practice causes immense pain, bleeding, infection, abscess plus shock, sometimes leading to death. Speaking during a half-day event to mark the alliance at Imperial Royale Hotel in Kampala on Tuesday, UNFPA’s country director Janet Jackson said the five-year program will cost $43.5m (about sh82.7b). The regional initiative is being implemented in 17 African nations. “Research shows that there are specific elements that need to be in place to support acceleration of abandonment of FGM. Among them is a supportive environment at national level, community empowerment activities and support by religious leaders,” Jackson said. She added that there was need for a public declaration by the community to abandon the practice besides support by networks and coalitions, media advocacy and resources. Uganda, which is grouped with Kenya, will benefit from the $4m (about sh7.6b) block funding in the program. The program, which is coordinated by the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, will initially target Kapchorwa, Nakapiripirit, Moroto and Bukwo districts. It will address effective enactment and enforcement of legislation against FGM and enhance sensitisation among the communities. East African Legislative Assembly MP Dorah Byamukama said the support is critical because it will help fast-track the FGM Bill. “We hope that this Bill can be passed by the end of this year,” said Byamukama, also founder of LAW-Uganda, which enacted the FGM Bill. Under the Bill, persons who carry out FGM risk up to 10 years imprisonment on conviction and life imprisonment in case the procedure results into the death of the victim, disability or HIV/AIDS infection. The Bill also criminalises individuals who consent to the practice. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that between 100 and 140 million girls and women worldwide have been subjected to FGM. Uganda’s prevalence stands at 5%. In a speech read by the information and national guidance minister, Kabakumba Masiko, the deputy Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, said FGM should be outlawed because it is harmful. “Culture is meant to unify us and instill pride in us. FGM, on the other hand, is cruel. It strips women of their fundamental rights and exposes them to gross health problems,” Kadaga said. Other countries to benefit from the programme include Egypt, Sudan, Djibouti, Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Eritrea, Senegal, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Burkina Faso, the Gambia, Ghana, Mali and Mauritania.