KWEEN– Authorities and other stakeholders in Sebei Sub-region have rescued over 1,000 girls from female genital mutilation [ FGM ] since 2020.
Medical experts say FGM comprises all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injuries to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.
The girls in Sebei were rescued after they ran away from undergoing the traditional ritual in the region in 2020.
David Mande, the Chairperson of anti-FGM activists in Sebei Sub-region, a youth group fighting the bad practice against women, said
the girls were saved with support of Action-Aid and local leaders.
Sebei Sub-region comprises of Kapchorwa, Bukwo, and Kween districts.
“The girls who were rescued were reunited with their families. Some of the rescued girls are in schools, others in technical institutes to get skills while others have been empowered. They can represent themselves,” he said.
According to Mande, even after the government outlawed FGM over a decade ago, it has continued to be practiced in the region.
He said there is a lot of laxity among leaders supposed to fight FGM.
Mande cited the sub-counties with increasing cases of FGM as Tuikat, Kaproron, Kwosir, in Kween among others.
Annet Chemutai,25, a resident of Kwosir village, Benet Sub-County in Kween district who was rescued, said she escaped from home to avoid being circumcised.
“When I realised that I was going to be circumcised, I left home and stayed in the forest before going to my grandmother’s home in Bukwo district,” Chemutai said.
She said she was later reunited with her parents by local leaders and anti-FGM activists.
Evelyn Kubarika, the LC5 Chairperson of Kapchorwa, said several girls have been rescued by the community and local leaders.
“The harmful practice against women violates their rights and also affects their sexual and reproductive health rights, personnel integrity, safety, and other rights,” Chebet said.
Sheeba Namulindwa, the Coordinator Action Aid in the eastern region, said the act has increased in the region.
“Before Covid-19 Bukwo was at 20 percent, Kapchorwa and Kween stood at 10 percent both but now the vice has rapidly increased to 27 percent in Bukwo, 21 percent in Kween, and 13 percent in Kapchorwa,” Namulindwa said.
The government outlawed FGM in 2010, punishing any person convicted of the practice up to 10 years in jail, among other sentences.
The data findings of the Uganda Demographic and Health Survey [UDHS 2011] and the FGM baseline study 2015, shows in Sebei region, the prevalence was highest in Bukwo at 27.7 percent followed by Kween at 21 percent and Kapchorwa, 13 percent.
Across all the three districts, the prevalence is highest among women aged 45 years and above [68 percent].
In most districts, the median age at which girls are cut is between 14 and 15 years.
The Bukwo Resident District Commissioner, Samuel Mpimbaza Hashaka, encouraged parents to shun FGM activities.
He said the practice is against the laws of Uganda.
“People should reject FGM, let us respect the girl child, it is outdated, it is a health risk, inhuman and abuse of rights of every girl and woman. We must stop it before a law takes its course,” Hashaka said.
He said they have deployed intelligence teams and informers in various villages to arrest those who are still practicing it.
In Uganda, FGM is mostly practiced in Kapchorwa, Kween, and Bukwo districts and Karamoja Sub-region districts of Nakapiripirit and Amudat.
Girls who undergo FGM continue to endure pain and poor health for the rest of their lives.
In some communities, FGM is a prerequisite for marriage.
However, some organisations are now working with some men who include husbands and boys to advocate for the elimination of the practice. This is after some girls got married without being circumcised.
Despite being outlawed, leaders, health and social workers believe that FGM has simply gone underground, and in many cases, girls who approach puberty are smuggled out to neighbouring Kenya where they undergo the ‘operation’ and return when it is too late for the Ugandan authorities to stop them.
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