By Cecilia Okoth
KAMPALA – Experts have revealed that Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) of girls in the Karamoja and Sebei regions is on the rise, five years after a law was passed by parliament to curb the vice.
Data collected by the United Nations International Children Emergency Fund (UNICEF) in 2014 shows an increase in the cases reported on FGM/C.
FGM/C is practiced by one per cent (1%) of Uganda’s population and among specific ethnic groups namely the Sabiny in Kapchorwa, Bukwo and Kween districts, the Pokot, Tepeth and Kadam in Nakapiripirit, Amudat districts within the Karamoja sub region.
According to the Prohibition of FGM/C Act Uganda 2010, the practice involves all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia for non-therapeutic reasons.
According to UNICEF, a total of 86 cases were reported in the practicing districts of Karamoja between January and October last year in comparison to 30 in 2013.
It is estimated that the cases are more than those reported, according to Marianna Garofalo, a Child Protection Specialist at UNICEF.
She was addressing a press conference on violence against children, FGM/C and child marriage in Kampala on Friday.
‘No border control’
Statistics show that 49 per cent (49%) of all 20 to 49-year-old women were married by the age of 18. Of these, 15 per cent (15%) were married much earlier, by the age of 15.
Garofalo however noted that there was no evidence on why FGM/C had increased and said it is an issue that needs to be addressed because of its cultural reasons.
“Many girls practice FGM/C in hidden or remote places, while others cross the border via Amudat and get cut in Kenya, which makes it difficult to track them down,” she told reporters.
There has been no control on the border as well to arrest the cutters who take the girls to Kenya, she added.
The UNICEF official however noted that as a positive effect of the Anti FGM/C Act of 2010, the girls were able to report the cases of the cutters to the police and other authorities due to mass sensitization.
Last year, 15 cutters were arrested and prosecuted in Moroto and Nakapiripirit.
According to the Uganda Demographic and Health Survey (UDHS) of 2011, the estimated prevalence of FGM/C among girls and women between 15-49 years of age is 1.4 per cent (1.4%).
The study shows that overall in Uganda, the rate of FGM/C has increased from 0.6 per cent (0.6%) in 2006 to 1.4 percent (1.4%) in 2011.
In Karamoja, the rate slightly decreased from 2.4 per cent (2.4%) in 2006 to 2.3 per cent (2.3%) in 2011.
Among the Pokot, FGM/C is nearly universal at 95 per cent (95%) and is 50 per cent (50%) among the Sabiny. Up to 134,000 women are affected.
Margaret Kasiko, a Gender Technical Advisor at the Ministry of Education and Sports said to ensure the cutters of this vice drop their tools, the ministry set up initiatives of giving them goats to help them earn a living, since most of them practice FGM/C to get money.
In Karamoja, the ministry has also constructed boarding schools to have the children stay in school, she revealed.
UNICEF is set to launch a child marriage strategy to eliminate child marriage in the generation this year. It will also launch a national violence against children survey in February.