Agnes Igoye, the deputy coordinator for prevention of trafficking in persons at MIA, said a number parents and traditional leaders have used the closure of schools to forcefully subject girls to FGM something that has forced many to seek refuge in Kenya.
At least 70
girls from the Karamoja sub-region have fled to neighbouring Kenya for fear of
being subjected to female genital mutilation –FGM. This is according to the Ministry
of Internal Affairs.
Agnes Igoye, the deputy coordinator for the prevention of trafficking in
persons at the ministry, says that several parents and traditional leaders have
used the closure of schools to forcefully subject girls to FGM something that
has forced many to seek refuge in Kenya.
Uganda just like other countries has so far imposed two lockdowns in a bid to
prevent the spread of Covid19. The first one was imposed on March 18, 2020, and
lasted up to the last quarter of the same year. However, schools have been
largely affected and some classes have not resumed since last year which has
kept several children at home.
President Yoweri Museveni closed schools again on June 6 this year after the
second wave of Covid19. Igoye said in the seven days they have spent in areas
of Karamoja particularly in Amudat district, they have noticed FMG cases are
skyrocketing even though they are yet to fully document the number of victims.
Igoye said in the few days they have engaged Amudat leaders both at the traditional
and political level as well as families, they have established girls who cannot
withstand FGM cruelty have chosen to run for safety.
The internal affairs ministry officials have already contacted their
counterparts in Kenya who have confirmed that over 70 girls have indeed crossed
because they have seen their colleagues being forcefully subjected to FGM and
they were also being witch-hunted to face the same.
“We still have children who have run away from home across the border. The 70
girls were talking about returning them but we need to first ensure they are
protected from what they run away from. FGM is a harmful ritual,” Igoye said.
//cue in “we still…
Cue out “…ritual”//
World Health Organization –WHO describes FGM as the partial or total removal of
external female genitalia or other injuries to the female genital organs for
non-medical reasons. According to WHO, the practice has no health benefits for
girls and women but it is capable of causing severe bleeding and problems
urinating, and later cysts, infections, as well as complications in childbirth
and increased risk of newborn deaths.
At least 200 million girls and women alive today have been cut in 30 countries
in Africa, the Middle East and Asia where FGM is concentrated. The most vulnerable
group of FGM are young girls between infancy and age 15. Article 33 (6)
prohibits Laws, cultures, customs or traditions which are against the dignity,
welfare or interest of women or which undermine their status. In addition,
Article 44 adds that “no person shall be subjected to any form of ‘torture and
cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.”
Uganda also enacted an independent Act against FGM in 2010. The Act
criminalizes the practice stating that neither consent nor any culture, custom,
ritual, tradition or religion is a defence to the crime of FGM in Uganda.
To establish the impact of FGM as a result of Covid19 lockdown, Igoye said they
are pitching camp in Amudat and will base there to make investigations into the
vice in other districts.
Joseph Kato is currently a Master's candidate at Makerere University. He holds a Bachelors Degree in Mass Communication from Kampala International University, a Diploma in Journalism and he's also a graduate in Guidance and Counseling.