By Najib Mulema
A number of Ugandans still suffer silently from cultural atrocities forced upon them against their will.
Female Genital mutilation (FGM) is one of the mischievous practices that have made people especially women to hate their culture. Many have died or lost a chance to give birth, due to this backward practice.
FGM is the ritual cutting or removal of some or all of the external female genitalia and in Uganda it’s commonly practiced by Sabiny (sebei) in Kapchorwa, Bukwo and Kween districts as well as the Pokot, Tepeth and Kadam in Nakapiripirit and Amudat districts.
According to these tribes, every girl or woman must undergo the procedure as the rite of passage into womanhood and if she is not circumcised then she is considered impure and an outcast in the community.
Many girls unwillingly have fallen victim whereas some by God’s grace have survived the erroneous act, despite being disowned by their own families.
Allen Nanono (not real names) is one of the few lucky girls who narrowly survived being mutilated.
After the death of her father in 2001, Nanono and siblings faced a lot of challenges which among others included constant threats of mutilation.
In that same year, she left her home village for Kampala in a bid to overcome her past misery.
In 2015 while at her work place in Antonia Kisaasi Rd Bukoto a city suburb, Nanono a mother of two (Ethan Kirya and Arthur Kayita Robert) was tracked down by the village (Kapchorwa)elders but lucky enough she managed to escape from them.
In fear of being traced again, Nanono decided to change her name which would later help hide her identity.
It was during this period that she met a Good Samaritan who helped her fly out of the country. She however had to leave behind her two children with her sister Nakintu Susan who also had survived the ‘knife’.
After learning about her departure and realizing that that they may never get her, the perpetrators decided to go for her family thus abducting one of her sons Kirya from around Nsambya, a Kampala suburb. Nakintu who fought tooth and nail eventually managed to rescue her nephew.
Nakintu with the help of her sister also fled out of Uganda along with her nephew.
There are many women and girls out there who are undergoing the same or worse situation which Nanono went through but their voices are not heard.
Recently, former MP for Bunyole West while speaking during a workshop organized by Uganda Women Parliamentary Association (UWOPA) revealed that communities practicing FGM changed their tactics of carrying out the outlawed practice.
He said, “The archaic practice has now taken a new twist. Women are cut by Traditional Birth Attendants (TBA) after giving birth, subjecting them to double jeopardy,” adding, “Many girls practice FGM in hidden or remote places, while others cross the border via Amudat and get cut in Kenya, making it difficult to track them.”
Wangolo said little has been done at the border to arrest those who take the girls to Kenya.
A law passed in 2010 banning FGM in Uganda has helped to bring the number of incidents down. Communities that continue to perform the rite do so secretly. Anti-FGM crusaders refer to such communities as hotspots.
According to the Uganda Demographic and Health Survey (2011), the FGM prevalence in the country stands at 1.4 per cent, but the figure rises in communities where the practice continues. This is despite the tough penalties imposed on those convicted.
Statistics from the Sebei sub-region suggest that only 24% of girls aged 10 to 14 have experienced some form of genital mutilation – while 76% of women between 25 and 35 have undergone the procedure.
The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) says there are about 200 million girls and women around the world who have gone through the cut. The consequences are both physical and psychological and can last a lifetime.
The procedure can cause severe bleeding, infections as well as complications in urinating and during childbirth, UNFPA notes.