If you've been follwing my blog entries you should know by now that I'm a Beep fan -- in other words, that's where I get most of my news about the continent. So, just in case you haven't yet heard the news, Uganda dropped "FGM" from its list of embraced acronyms. I'll interpret -- Female Genital Mutilation is now legally banned in Uganda!
The BBC reported: "Anyone convicted of the practice, which involves cutting off a girl's clitoris, will face 10 years in jail, or a life sentence if a victim dies."
The news comes just weeks after a world acknowledgement of "International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women," (read my post on that). The human rights status of Uganda is still in the dark, considering some of the charges that have been brought against the government in the past: Reports about violation of refugee rights, torture allegedly is a well-known practice in security circles and of course, who can forget the arrest of the country's main oppostion leader, Kizza Besigye?
But I think it's important for the world to acknowledge this bit of news as an indication of what Uganda could become. That perhaps taking this step against genital mutilation demonstrates the government's progress in tackling women's issues? This statement may be a stretch, but I say let's give them the benefit of the doubt and monitor any advancements on the issue.
The World Health Organization asserts that between 100 and 140 million girls and women are living with the brunt of FGM today. This violation of the human rights of girls and women, viewed in some countries as a right of passage, is one of the most torturous experiences any woman should be subjected to. (Read this article)
I think African governments taking the initiative to ban such practices are commendable. But what happens to unmonitored areas of a country? It's one thing for a government to pass such a law, it's another, however, to ensure that traditionalists are held accountable and adhere to these new rules. Anyone familiar with African "laws" will tell you that with the bribery of a local official, one can get away with almost anything.
I would suggest - and I'm yet to see detailed official documents regarding this new Ugandan law - that any country that passes such a law should invest in resources that'll ensure that they're carried out. This is not just a law. It's the life of a young girl who may someday want to become an entrepreneur, a doctor or lawyer but lacks confidence as a result of the ordeal because she feels incomplete and insecure. It's the life of a woman who desires to build a family but never imagined that the sexual pleasure missing in her marriage would directly be linked to what was taken away from her as a child by someone who held a skewed view of preserving virginity.
I call on the voices of all women, specifically African women, whether you've undergone this procedure or not, to join forces and fight against the brutality. No human deserves this.