BUKWO– More than seventy girls have been circumcised in Sebei sub-region ahead of the official launch of the season that comes in December this year.
According to local leaders, this has forced hundreds of girls to flee their homes ahead of the December holidays for fear of being subjected to female genital mutilation (FGM).
Ms Beatrice Chelangat, the Director General of REACH an NGO that fights FGM in Sebei sub-region, said despite schools being closed for the December holidays, meaning rest and relaxation away from the rigours of a long school term for learners, many girls in the region have nothing to smile about with more than 200 of them contemplating running away from home to avoid the traditional practice.
Ms Chelangat revealed that in Kawoyon sub-county 7 girls were cut on Tuesday, in Kapsindle sub-County, in Kiring parish 11 were cut, in Taritar sub-county 18 were cut last night while this morning 18 girls were cut in Kaptanya sub-county in Kapchorwa district alone and another 8 have been cut in Riwo sub-county in Bukwo district.
This comes barely a week after police crackdown discovered that over 17 girls and women had been circumcised in Ngenge sub-county alone in Kween district this month.
“Girls Rescue Homes in Kapchorwa and Kween which are the refuge for the girls fleeing the outdated cultural practices, is now overwhelmed with the high number of girls seeking accommodation to avoid being subjected to the circumciser’s knife,” said Ms Chelangat.
“And tonight more girls are being prepared to be cut, we have been in these homes, we have seen the preparations but police is yet to act,” added Ms Chelangat.
Mr Rogers Tayitika, the Sipi-region police spokesperson confirmed there was FGM taking place in the sub-region but that apart from the three girls, they have no other arrests.
He explained that parents are having their girls secretly circumcised, with those living near the international borders taking their girls to Kenya to undergo the rite in remote and hard to reach areas.
“Police is on alert and we have so far arrested two victims while the surgeons remain at large but we are closing on them,”
REACH has named the hotspot FGMcrime areas as Tugumo, Ngangata, Kwoti, Benet, Kaptanya, Girik, Kwanyiny, Taritar, Kowoyon and Ngenge sub-counties in Sebei sub-region [Kapchorwa, Kween and Bukwo districts].
Ms Chelangat said she had the names and location of the girls who were mutilated on in November and those to be mutilated in December.
Why is there no action taken against perpetrators?
Local leaders are reluctant to swing into action because, according to Ms Chelangat, they may lose votes.
The police are also unable to arrest the culprits because according to the Bukwo district Police chiefs they do not have transport and they are not facilitated.
“We lack transport and most of the places are vast and hilly for us to reach,” said a police officer who asked not to be named.
Although 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.
Female circumcision often involves partial or total removal of the clitoris and labia minora.
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.