FGM in Uganda: illegal by law, but ‘legal’ by culture
Female genital mutilation (FGM) is a practice that involves partial or total removal of the female external genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons as defined by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
In some African countries, this cultural practice is carried out mostly as a rite of passage to adulthood.
In Sebei and Karamoja regions, located in eastern and northeastern Uganda, the Sabiny and Pokot tribes that initially practiced* Female Genital Mutilation believed that it was the only way of preparing a woman for marriage.
Once a young girl (as young as 5yrs) underwent the ritual, she would be considered clean and mature enough to be married off. They believed the process did reduce a woman’s libido, thus minimizing chances of promiscuity.
Today, Female Genital Mutilation is illegal in Uganda. In 2010, Uganda passed a law prohibiting the practice, with offenders liable to face considerable jail time of up to 5 years.
Criminalization of the practice has given room to an underground pricy and dangerous racket that operates in absolute secrecy.
Although Kenya passed a similar law in 2014, banning Female Genital Mutilation, many Ugandans still cross the porous border under the cover of darkness to be cut and only to return when it is done.
FGM is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women. It reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes, and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women.