By Olivier Mukaaya
Residents in Kween District have blamed police for continued Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) practice in the region
This was brought to during a Community dialogue on FGM organized by National Association of women organization in Uganda (NAWOU) where residents alleged that Police is too slow on responding to cases reported to them.
The Community Diaolugue involved all leaders from sebei sub region with a purpose of finding workable solutions for ending FGM.
Residents accused police and government for being quick arresting them when they practice FGM but slow on acting on reported cases of FGM.
Chemutai Irene, a resident of Kamowo Cell Binyiny Sub County told us that the law on FGM isn’t effective in Sebei region because those who are supported to enforce it aren’t acting.
She adds that in many cases when women are being forced to cut and run to police for help, they are not helped.
“They are quick to bring laws but they are not acted upon, some of us run to police for help but you get shocked when some officers tell you that its cultural practice and government supports cultural practice then what’s the use of the law,” she said.
Chebet Felicita district councilor and a resident of kapkoch village also blames authorities for not doing much sensitization in the communities.
“How do you expect to end FGM when you are not involving the men yet it’s the men who force women to undergo the cutting? Some of us here talk a lot about the FGM law but we ourselves don’t follow it,”Ms Chebet said.
Balwaniregha Denis Ephraim, the Resident District Commissioner (RDC) Kween said people need to learn to respect the law and also support government programmes.
He explained that such laws are put in place to protect them and also fight for their human rights instead of heaping blame on authorities.
” I don’t understand why people keep blaming the government yet it’s also their responsibility to make sure that whatever law government puts across is acted upon not only by the authorities but also themselves for their good,” he said.
He added that the law is very clear Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act, 2010 spells out tough penalties for anyone involved in FGM.
Those who offer themselves for the knife, face up to 10 years in prison, while anyone who provides aid or takes part in the practice in any way, is liable upon conviction, to five years in prison. Likewise, if the exercise ends in death, disability or infection with HIV/Aids, the punishment is life imprisonment.
“If you aren’t helped when you went to report why did you keep silent yet you know that there are other offices where you can seek help?” The RDC asked.
Adiama Ekaju John Robert, the RDC Amudat also echoed the same thing asking people to stop putting blame on government and police but instead put it on themselves because they are the very ones who report and then after defend those arrested.
“People enjoy blaming the government for everything government is systematic in doing things, police always acts, the only problem is people not playing their part to help government end FGM,” Adiama said.
Mr Paul Machinjach, the LCV Chairperson Kween District added that they want to stop FGM but it isn’t easy because most people live in hard to reach areas and also there is lack of security points which makes it hard to enforce the law.
“We have 18 sub counties few police points and only 8 health centres which makes everything harder because if the police officers are alerted on something in another village, it takes them time to reach and sometimes by the time they reach cutting is already done.” Machinjach said.
However Cherukut Mariam, the programmes manager National association of women organization in Uganda says that there is law enforcement on the ground both in Amudat and Sebei region but if police can be strengthened, enforcement of the laws that protect women will be effective.
“It only needs to empower the enforcers and also be funded that’s when the FGM law can really be effective,” she said.
Ms Beatrice Chelangat, the director General of Reproductive Education and Community Health (REACH), an advocacy NGO against FGM, told this website that although President Museveni signed the law prohibiting Female Genital Mutilation (FMG) seven years ago, the practice still persists among the traditional Sabiny and Karimojong communities.
“FGM, among the Sabiny those who hail from Kween, Kapchorwa and Bukwo is still widely seen as a prerequisite for marriage,” she said.
Mr Saul Chebet, the Kween District, a senior community development officer said that while there have been no recent studies on the FGM prevalence rate, there is evidence to show the numbers have reduced drastically after the law.
He however added that a lot more work still needs to be done to eradicate the practice because FGM is a deep-rooted culture which cannot be wipe out at once.
He revealed that in the FGM hotspots, female circumcision is no longer a ceremonial event held once every year and that it also takes place sporadically such as when a woman is giving birth.
Mr Chebet explained that November and December is the “season” for FGM because schools will have closed and the maize is high, fields are bushy, so people hide in the fields.