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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Africa: Region Praised On Genital Mutilation Ban

July 27, 2010
By Cyprian Musoke -

Kampala — Uganda has been praised for banning female genital mutilation (FGM), with a call to other African countries where the practice still exists to follow suit.

Addressing the First Ladies' forum on HIV/AIDS at Speke resort Munyonyo yesterday, the African Union (AU) commissioner for social affairs, Bience Gawanas, said the practice humiliated women.

"AU decided that there should be no more declarations, no more resolutions concerning women's lives and dignity because it is time for action. That's why we applaud our host Uganda, who passed a law against female genital mutilation," she said.

Gawanas added that the practice should have been abolished long time ago and urged other countries that have not banned it to do so quickly.

She lauded the First Lady, Janet Museveni, for championing the abstinence and HIV/AIDS prevention programmes in schools and among youth out of school. Gawanas also called for more efforts in reaching the women in rural areas with information on safe sex and safe motherhood.

Mrs. Museveni said Uganda had embarked on a roadmap to accelerate the reduction of maternal and infant mortality rate. More children however, she added, continue to die hence the need to step up action.

"Most women die due to bleeding and infection, which are largely preventable hence the need for more access to emergency care, equipment and access to information about the availability of these," Mrs. Museveni said.

She noted that more deaths occur in rural areas that lack clear messages on family planning, which she described as the basic tool for safe motherhood.

"We need to network and keep in touch to sharpen strategies in order to make a difference in the status of African families, and give hope to women and children," she said.

The executive director of the United Nations Food and population agency, Dr. Thoraya Obaid, hoped that the commitment showed by the heads of state on maternal and infant mortality rate is translated into better budgets to the cause when they go back home.

"There are many demanding issues on the budget, but we would like to see maternal mortality issues prioritised. No woman should die giving life," Obaid stressed.

She also noted that access to maternal reproductive health is restricted by lack of information to the rural women and backward cultural practices like FGM.