January 13, 2010
By The Observer
Parliament last month passed the Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Bill, which makes it a criminal offence for anyone to perform, aid or promote female circumcision. Given the harmful effects of this practice, the enactment of the law is a positive step. It is a strong indicator of the goal that Uganda should be shooting at as regards our girls and women.
But whereas Parliament and anti-FGM activists jumped a tall hurdle when this law was passed, in reality a lot remains to be done to ensure that this unfortunate cultural practice comes to an end.
According to our investigations, some in areas that practise FGM feel that government has not done enough to persuade traditionalists to discard this culture.
Others feel that the MPs didn't explain the bill even as it was being tabled in Parliament. Although progressive elites in these areas have long fought FGM, the more conservative, less educated people will want to see the bill as a Kampala-made law.
So, besides enforcing the law, what is critically needed is mass sensitization in homes, churches, mosques, markets and villages, etc. The government and all stakeholders should embark on an elaborate plan both to explain the law and further explain the dangers of FGM.
The law should only come in to supplement the campaign, rather than banking on it per se to end female circumcision because it may not succeed. One of the most effective ways to make the practice unattractive is to send all children - both boys and girls to school.
In addition, why can't the ministries of gender and Education team up to ensure FGM is taught in all schools in affected areas, for instance from primary three upwards?
As one elder who spoke to The Observer suggested, if the government established very good schools and emphasised education, particularly of the girl child in these areas, the practice would die a natural death.