Desert Flower Foundation
The past month has seen heated discussions on FGM in several East African countries where December is a traditional month for subjecting young girls to female genital mutilation as part of a rite of initiation. Especially in Kenya and Uganda, hundreds of girls became victims of FGM within the last month despite FGM being illegal in both countries.
Some commentators on the situation in Uganda criticize the government’s approach of criminalizing the practice, arguing that awareness raising campaigns cannot be replaced by laws when it comes to deep-rooted practices such as FGM. While criminalizing FGM will not lead to an eradication of the practice by itself, it sends out an important message to a countries society: that FGM is a crime and should be treated as such. At the same time, it is clear that education and empowerment are necessary in order to eradicate FGM, as this commentary from Uganda points out.
Others claim that there is a need for stricter enforcement, and that the UN should put pressure on governments that fail to effectively address a human rights violation such as FGM in their country.
In Kenya, observers note that despite attempts to replace FGM with alternative rites of passage, many girls continue to be mutilated as a result of pressure from the family and a lack of alternatives to arranged marriage.
“Laws against FGM are important because they make a clear statement about what FGM really is: a cruel crime and human rights violation against children. But it is also clear that if we do not address the root causes of FGM, if we do not improve the social status and recognition of women and the possibilities and chances for girls, laws alone will not be enough to eradicate this crime for good.”