KAPCHORWA- Public ceremonies celebrating the illegal “season” of female genital mutilation (FGM) are now taking place unchallenged by the authorities in Kapchorwa, Kween and Bukwo, it has emerged.
Reports at a review meeting in Kapchorwa indicated that married women who escaped FGM are being forced by their husbands and threatened to undergo the cut.
Mr Bernard Ayeko [Kapchorwa] and Mr Noah Mande [Kween], the Reproductive Education and Community Health (REACH), an advocacy NGO against female circumcision [REACH] field monitors/ Anti-FGM advocates reported that over the past month about 200 women have undergone FGM, and that they witnessed groups of men, some armed, taking their women for FGM.
“And we have also seen men going door-to-door harassing the families of uncircumcised women and buying gifts for women who have undergone FGM,” said Mr Mande.
Mr Mande explained that following threats of violence, said community leaders are breaking promises made in the past to end the practice.
“The implementers of the law; Police, local council leaders are all threatened by the husbands and we as monitors are also being threatened. There is a man who had his wife, a teacher in one school in Kween circumcised and when it was reported, he pointed at me for reporting him and he threatened to harm me,” said Mr Mande.
Mr Mande was speaking at a meeting organised by The REACH programme at Kapchorwa December 18 to build capacity of the cultural and religious leaders, Anti-FGM advocates and activists to monitor and report FGM cases in order to facilitate assessment of progress made in the FGM abandonment.
Mr Akisoferi Kerenget, the Chairman Kapchorwa Elders Forum said the ceremonies started secretly in November with some girls being taken in the early hours, but when they realised no action was being taken to stop them; it became full-blown and very public.
“Today, despite the law being in place, women are being paraded openly in the villages, as the community members sing and dance in villages. I have reports of more than 180 girls in the past one month alone being taken for the cut,” said Mr Serenget.
Ms Beatrice Chelangat, the director REACH programmed explained that besides cutting girls and women in the bushes, caves and other places the police can’t access, there is also a change of season for practicing FGM from December to November to avoid media spotlight and scrutiny from Government agencies.
“And because there was bo circumcision in 2016, the women who evaded the cut and those who did not take for cultural reasons are now being forced to undergo the cultural practice or their husbands be denied gifts by Bundas [same age group or people who took circumcision the same day],” said Ms Chelangat..
Ms Chelangat said women and girls in Sebei and Karamoja have been victims of the outdated customs, attitudes and male prejudice and that the target of NGOs in districts cutting women/ girl-child should be to educate and create awareness about the dangers of FGM in order to liberate women from the bondage.
She explained that FGM is still persisting in Sebei sub-region [Kapchorwa, Kween and Bukwo because it is based on manipulation of women’s sexuality in order to ensure male domination and exploitation as a part of patriarchal repression.
Ms Tina Cheptoyek explained that across the Sebei sub-region reports indicate that it is now husbands forcing their wives to undergo the cut to avoid missing out on gifts and that women are also undergoing FGM because they want their families to get high bride price during marriage.
“And do you know that the police and some chiefs are shielding FGM perpetrators from prosecution, there is a lot of bribery taking place here, we need to bring everyone on board and even husbands if we are to end FGM,” said Ms Cheptoyek..
Ms Cheptoyek revealed that uncircumcised married women are undergoing pressure from their husbands and society because they are not allowed to serve elders, get food from the granary and attend traditional meetings. attend traditional meetings.
“The mothers-in-law abuse them, they are shunned,” Ms Chelangat added.
Reports from various leaders and advocates attending the meeting revealed that community leaders have become the worst enemies to ending FGM.
Mr Parkson Mangusho, a monitor of FGM in Kween said community leaders attend trainings but once they walk out, they go back to the practice and they have made FGM a business.
“They get allowances for meetings and when the surgeons carry out FGM they take a share of the proceeds, they are bribed by parents of the victims and I think our strategies used need to change if we are to stop FGM,” said Mr Mangusho.
A report produced by The REACH Programme showed that bout 182 women/girls had undergone the cut since November and early December but adds quickly that these are the only ones documented but that there are those who have taken secretly and have not been discovered.
Mr Frank Mangusho, the programme officer at REACH said lack of awareness of constitutional rights has made women and girls not to seek legal action against perpetrators of the vice for fear of reprisals from their husbands and parents.
“There is need to educate our people on their rights, laws, the court processes and the outcome especially on the fact that many who have been arrested and taken to court have been set free and are back in their homes,” said Mr Mangusho said.
He recommended that the communities across the Sebei sub-region should receive a whole package of information and education on that affect their lives such as Health, Education and that the FGM law should be explained to all people and popularized.
“And there is need to create synergy through strengthening the role of NGOs and other civil society organisations that work against FGM and adapting to holistic community development through integrating FGM issues into development plans of every local government where FGM is practiced,” said Mr Mangusho.