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Monday, December 14, 2009

Stamp out Female Circumcision

December 13, 2009 By The New Vision - Uganda Leading Website PARLIAMENT has passed the Bill prohibiting Female Genital Mutilation, commonly known as female circumcision. The bill now awaits the assent of the President to become law. This is a landmark bill that has been long overdue. The Bill, sponsored by a private member, Kinkiizi East MP Chris Baryomunsi (NRM), provides for criminalising the practice, prosecution of offenders and protection of victims. According to the Bill, a person found guilty of aggravated female genital mutilation will be liable to life imprisonment. Aggravated female genital mutilation is described as situations where death occurs as a result of the act or where the victim suffers disability or is infected with HIV/AIDS. The Bill further provides that people who participate or aid the process shall be jailed for up to five years. Female genital mutilation refers to all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia for non-therapeutic reasons. Women who undergone this practice suffer physical pain, psychological torture and reproductive health complications. Some have lost their lives. The practice is mostly carried out among the Sabiny in Bukwo and Kapchorwa districts. In Karamoja, it is prevalent among the Pokot, Tepeth and the Kadam. It is surprising that it has taken up to 2009 to criminalise this primitive, inhuman and archaic practice. No practice that is dehumanising and endangers people�s lives should be retained in the name of culture. It is also puzzling that it is a private MP who took the initiative to table the Bill. This raises the question whether the Government will have the courage and political will to enforce the law once it comes into force. The Government and local authorities in the areas affected must use the new law to stamp out the practice once and for all. But before that, there must be a campaign to sensitise the communities that female circumcision is not only degrading, but also criminal.