Kadaga Blames Health Ministry for FGM Persistence

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In short
The speaker says the Ministry of health has not been visible in efforts towards Zero tolerance to FGM.

The Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga has reiterated a call to cultural groups and law enforcement agencies to ensure Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation in Uganda.

Her call came as Uganda joined the rest of the world, to mark the International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation, a United Nations initiative to end the practice world over.

Although FGM is recognized internationally as a human rights violation, it is still carried out in around 30 countries, with procedures that involve altering the female genitalia for non-medical reasons. FGM can cause severe bleeding and health issues including cysts, infections, infertility as well as complications in childbirth and the increased risk of newborn deaths.

A recent report by the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) also shows that girls aged 14 and younger represent 44 million of those who have been cut, with the highest prevalence of FGM among this age in Gambia, Mauritania and Indonesia.

Uganda banned the practice in 2009 with a law that imposed harsh penalties for participation in FGM. The law provides for a 10-year jail sentence for any person convicted of practising FGM and life imprisonment for incidences that lead to death, disability or result in the victim's infection with HIV/AIDS.

However, despite the ban, the cultural ritual is practised among the Pokot, Sabiny and Tepeth tribes in the districts of Kapchorwa, Kween and Bukwo in eastern Uganda. Among the Pokot, FGM is near universal at 95 percent and at approximately 50 percent among the Sabiny.

Kadaga lamented the fact that there has not been a national campaign to end FGM even after Parliament enacted a law banning the practice almost ten years ago. She said the Ministry of Health has not been vibrant in efforts to end FGM.
 
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It is currently estimated that around 200 million girls and women across the world have suffered from some form of FGM, 44 million who are aged 14 or younger.

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Country Representative, Alain Sibenaler in an interview said it is not acceptable that Female Genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) continues in Uganda.
 
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Studies have shown that FGM connects with other social issues such as girls not completing education and growing into women who have poor literacy; pressure to accept early or child marriage; poor access to physical and psychological health care, and a risk of HIV/ AIDS transmission.

The 2011 Uganda Demographic Health Survey (DHS) estimated the prevalence of FGM in girls and women (aged 15-49 years) at 1.4 percent. In comparison to many of the other countries in Africa in which FGM is practised, Uganda has a very low rate although health and human rights activists say it has no place in today's modern world.

Since the 2010 anti-FGM Act, the practice has gone underground perpetrated by some cultural leaders. An activist involved in anti-FGM have also said enforcing the law is becoming hard in absence of accurate data.

Sibenaler told URN that efforts were still on to have the law enforced by reaching out to cultural and religious leaders with messages against FGM. He said FGM is a big threat to the reproductive health of women and girls.
 
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Uganda has been holding annual anti-FGM marathons in September as part of the efforts to discourage it in areas where it is practised. Rebecca Kadaga has personally pledged to be part of this year's event scheduled for the end of November.

 The inaugural marathon was presided over by Archbishop of the Church of Uganda Stanley Ntagali 2015. Fifteen communities in Sebei's districts of Kapchorwa, Kween and Bukwo have abandoned the practice