The State minister for Gender and Culture, Ms Peace Mutuuzo, has ordered local authorities in Bukwo District in Sebei Sub-region to identify the Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) cutters, commonly known as surgeons, and hand them over to the government.
Ms Mutuuzo made the remarks while addressing local leaders and residents during an anti-FGM cross boarder meeting at Tulwo Cell in Riwo Town Council, Bukwo, last Friday.
She said the surgeons are partly responsible for the resumption of the banned practice.
“When we get them, we will give them another opportunity by taking them for training so that they are rehabilitated to abandon the practice but if they do it again, we will imprison them,” Ms Mutuuzo said, adding that the surgeons are known to the locals and usually attend anti-FGM meetings.
Ms Mutuuzo’s orders come on the backdrop of the increased cases of FGM, especially in Bukwo, which has risen from 3 percent in 2019 to around 20 percent in 2021, according to district officials. In other neighbouring districts such Kween and Kapchorwa, the vice has risen to 10 percent.
The district leadership has mapped the hotspot sub-counties as Riwo, Chepwasta, Kapsarur, Kortek, and Mutushet. Most of them neighbour Kenya, where FGM is less restricted.
Ms Mutuuzo said the government will come up with several interventions including setting up a radio station, building a secondary school for girls with a boarding section and also strengthening security enforcement in the affected sub-counties.
“We are going to put up a court of law to reprimand the perpetrators and also have a prison constructed here [Bukwo] to stop FGM,” she said.
The government banned FGM in 2010, punishing any person convicted of the practice up to 10 years in jail, among other sentences. Mr Sam Kapmwasir, one of the elders, told Daily Monitor that the resumption of FGM is a sign that the vice is deeply rooted.
“The only way to stop it [FFM] is through massive sensitisation and not arrests and imprisonment,” Mr Kapmwasir said.
He said the surgeons, elders and mentors are using the thick bushes of Mt Elgon National Park, hard-to-reach valleys and hills as a safe haven to carry out FGM.
“Some of our girls and women sneak into the park to undertake FGM and others are cut during child delivery,” he said.
Ms Irene Cherotich, a nursing officer attached to Bukwo Hospital, said girls and women who undergo FGM suffer Post –Traumatic Stress Disorder.
“Circumcised girls and women lose desire for sex at an early age and this is the reason we have increased cases of domestic violence,” she said.
In 2020, the district registered about 301 cases of Gender-Based Violence (GBV) and 1,773 teenage pregnancies fueled partly by the coronavirus-induced lockdown.
Mr Ben Musobo, the chairperson of Tulwo Village, said government should support community groups that are fighting the vice in the hotspot sub-counties.
Mr Samuel Ononge, an official with Action Aid-UG, said there is need to support the surgeons with alternative livelihood programmes so that they abandon the practice from which they earn a living.
“We also need to strenghen enforcement and sensitisation if we are to stamp out FGM,” Mr Ononge said.
He said as Action Aid with funding from United Nations Population Fund, they have partnered with government to reverse the current trend of FGM.
Mr Francis Cherotwo, the Bukwo community development officer, said most of the victims are circumcised in Kenya, where they go to work as bar maids, baby sitters and even as sex workers.
“The porous border of Uganda and Kenya allows the FGM practicing communities to interact freely on daily basis,” Mr Cherotwo said.
He said most of the sub-counties, where the mutilation takes place, are hard-to-reach.
“This is why FGM is not about to end in the near future despite the many interventions put in place,” he said.
The district chairperson, Mr Julius Chelimo, said they will continue holding cross-border anti-FGM meetings.
“We will also involve all categories of people from both border sides and explore altenative rites of passage to adulthood for the girlchild,” he said.
Mr Chelimo urged parents and local leaders to stop conniving with surgeons to have their girls mutilated.
The chairperson of National Women’s Council, Ms Faridah Kibowa, called for collective effort to end FGM in Sebei and Karamoja.
“There is nothing good with FGM. It affects women’s sex desire and it kills marriages in the long run,” she said.
The Uganda Demographic and Health Surveys (UDHS of 2011) and the FGM baseline study of 2015 indicates that the prevalence of FGM is higher in Karamoja Sub-region compared to Sebei, with the highest percentage of 52 in Moroto, 49 in Nakapiripirit and 42 in Amudat districts.