KAMPALA, Feb. 4 — As the world commemorates the international day of zero tolerance for female genital mutilation (FGM) on Wednesday, three UN agencies in Uganda say the practice has drastically gone down in the east African country.
Evidence shows that over 95 percent of the communities where FGM was formerly practiced do not support the practice anymore, the World Health Organization, the United Nations Children’s Fund and the United Nations Population Fund said in a joint statement.
The agencies said over 200 communities have since 2009 publicly declared abandonment of the practice in Sebei and Karamoja regions, in the eastern part of the country.
“Currently, we see even more diverse community activity — the media are fully engaged, the church is strongly outspoken, the cultural leaders have come out to denounce the practice, girls and young women are stepping out and saying ‘no’ to FGM,” the statement said.
“For several years now, most of the practicing communities of FGM in Uganda have realized that there are absolutely no benefits associated with FGM, but rather far-reaching harmful consequences for the women and girls who are cut,” the statement added.
Health experts say FGM, which is seen as a rite of passage into womanhood, is a big threat to women and girls’ rights, including reproductive health, causing prolonged bleeding, infections, and sometimes formation of cysts.
The agencies said recent reports of women and girls in Kween district, eastern Uganda, being forcefully subjected to FGM is a big concern.
“Clearly, if women and girls have to be forced against their will to undergo what is presumably a cultural tradition, then something is terribly wrong. We are specifically reaching out to the government of Uganda and other stakeholders to see how we can join hands to support girls and women who are now living in fear,” the statement said.
“The recent upsurge should not derail efforts to eliminate FGM. Discontinuing the practice is a long and complex process because it requires a total change in behavior and negative social norms.”
In 2010, Uganda enacted an anti-FGM law under which culprits could be jailed for four to five years once found guilty.