“I had no idea that what they had done to me was actually called Female Genital Mutilation, to the best of my knowledge it was just like any other compulsory custom that all girls in my community had to undergo!,” the 78- year- old Yapsolimo Mangret said.
Just like Yapsolimo, many a girl in Uganda have faced the pangs of female genital mutilation. Most of these are ignorant, forced or left with no other choice than to embrace the practice.
At the age of 20, together with other girls of the same age; she was taken to the compound of a re known surgeon. One by one they marched into a dark hut where they were cut.
Female genital mutilation is very common among the Nilotic tribes especially the Sabiny. These group of people are part of the larger Kalenjin ethnic group and are related to the Maasai in Kenya and Tanzania who also practice the vice.
In Uganda, according to the most recent Demographic Health Survey (DHS), the estimated prevalence of FGM in girls and women (aged 15-49 years) is 1.4% (DHS, 2011). In comparison to many of the other countries in Africa in which FGM is practiced, Uganda has a very low rate. There are regional variations in prevalence with the highest rates occurring in Karamoja (4.5%) and the Eastern Region (2.3%) (DHS, 2011). All other regions in Uganda have prevalence rates of below 2%.
Yariwo Zulaika from Tumboboi village in Kapchorwa district says although she was to grow old, she would still be considered a young girl in her community. Genital mutilation just like male circumcision was a crucial step into maturity among the women.
Scars engraved on her body were physical evidence to show that she underwent circumcision.
Though, it was a traditional custom, it was associated with so many difficulties. Immediately after circumcision, the girls faced excessive bleeding.
Since they shared the same knife, these girls were exposed to any disease. Luckily, disease transmission was unheard of back then.
The Constitution of the Republic of Uganda (1995) protects women and their rights under Article 33. It specifically prohibits under 33(6)” Laws, cultures, customs and traditions which are against the dignity, welfare or interest of women or which undermine the status……”
Further, Article 44 states that no person shall be subjected to any form of ‘torture and cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment.’
The Main Law criminalizing FGM in Uganda is the Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act 2010(the FGM Act 2010).
The Act imposes harsh penalties for the participation of the practice of Female Genital Mutilation. A person convicted of the practice faces a sentence of up to ten years in prison.
In case the practice causes death, disability or a victim gets an HIV infection, the punishment is life imprisonment.
This law has cracked down some perpetuators of Female Genital Mutilation.
However, this sentence is not stringent enough to put the vice to a complete halt. Communities still practice the rite but in secret.