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Friday, December 10, 2010

Education Will Eliminate FGM

December 10, 2010
The Observer

Female genital mutilation continues unabated in Sebei even after Parliament enacted a law making the practice illegal.
The ritual, normally held in December, involves cutting off of a girl’s clitoris as a rite of passage. The cruel and dehumanising character of female circumcision, as it is sometimes called, had made it a campaign target by civil society organisations for a long time, until late last year when a private member’s bill resulted in a law outlawing it.
Under this law, those who abet female genital mutilation face imprisonment of five to ten years. But it was never going to be as easy as that. Just like old habits, old cultures die hard. For instance, reports surfaced early this month that female circumcision services are now being sought across the border in Kenya, which has no law similar to Uganda’s.
It has also been reported that some of its promoters in the Sebei sub-region are turning against the law enforcement officers in a desperate bid to keep their cultural practice. But this practice is brutal and has no known value. Besides, it is often imposed on innocent children. That is why the resistance notwithstanding, female circumcision must stop.
Overcoming it will require more education, both for the young and the old. There’s evidence that education, particularly of the girl child, results in the decline of some other harmful cultural practices. For instance, a girl who studies as far as university will not be married off at 14 years, as often happens to the uneducated ones.
And when they eventually marry, girls with a good education foundation are in a better position to make responsible reproductive health decisions.
In the same way, the government needs to pay special attention to the education of the girl child, particularly among the Sabiny.
This would help them appreciate the irrelevance of female circumcision on realising that other girls at school, perhaps from other parts of the country, don’t have to go through the pain.
On the other hand, the adults need to be sensitised on why the cultural practice is bad, and thus was abolished in Uganda. With adequate education and sensitisation, law enforcement will be easier.