Saturday, December 12, 2009

Female Genital Mutilation Gets Up To Life In Prison In Uganda

There's good news out of Uganda regarding female genital mutilation (FGM)- one of the most barbaric, backwards and abusive practices forced on young females in parts of Africa, the Middle East, Asia and elsewhere. The Ugandan parliament has just passed a law banning female circumcision, a traditional right of passage performed on young girls under the age of 15, without their consent. An horrific cultural, and sometimes religious practice, which predates Islam and Christianity, the genitalia of the child is wholly or partially removed.

Sometimes the remaining flesh is stitched closed, a practice called infibulation, leaving only a tiny opening for urination and menstruation, and making intercourse and childbirth painful.

It's estimated 2 to 3 million mutilations are performed per year, and there are anywhere from 130 to 140 million women worldwide who have been tortured through female genital mutilation; at least those still living, since it's common for girls to die during the procedure or from complications, including infection. And it is torture in many instances where anesthesia is not used, and the methods can be very primitive-

“I have never been traumatised my whole life,” reported MP Margaret Muhanga as she testified to her witness of FMG. “They used a sharp stone and cut off the girl’s clitoris…Imagine your daughter being treated like that.”

“The Lord was not stupid to put it the way he did,” said Ngora MP Francis Epetait. “All those accessories had their purpose. It is very stupid for man to claim to be wiser than God.”

The sentencing structure varies depending on certain factors
- 10 years for those caught performing FGM.
-Life in prison if the child dies, contracts HIV or is eventually disabled. It seems the risk of HIV AIDS is much higher for those who have been circumcised.

The Bill passed unanimously, although stopping the practice will be very difficult. Though it has been banned in other African countries, Egypt and elsewhere, it is still far too prevalent. Old habits die hard, and unless you start a massive re-education programme the horrific practice will continue. At least this is a step in the right direction.

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