Local leaders in Sebei sub-region of Eastern Uganda are requesting changes to the existing Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) Act of 2010 to make it easier to prosecute those responsible for the practice. While FGM cases have reduced, there are still challenges hindering its complete eradication, according to Mr. Moris Kiplangat, a senior community development officer at Bukwo District local government.
One of the key issues highlighted is the lack of protection for whistleblowers under the current FGM Act. The law imposes penalties on individuals who witness or follow those involved in FGM, discouraging reporting. Mr. Kiplangat emphasized, “The FGM act has some gaps because it has no protections for the persons who report. The law says that the person witnessing and following (the group of mutilators) have their penalties. Because of this, people have kept quiet because those who would be whistleblowers are not protected in the act.”
Enforcement officers also encounter difficulties in obtaining substantial evidence required by the Act for prosecution. Mr. FredMark Chesang, the Sipi regional police public relations officer, explained, “Prosecuting that suspect is a challenge because the court may require substantial evidence (fresh genital part of a woman) to make sure the suspect is prosecuted which is a bit difficult to find since the vice is now practiced in secret.”
In addition to legal challenges, porous borders and poverty have impeded efforts to combat FGM in Sebei sub-region. It has been reported that individuals taking girls to Kenya for mutilation receive financial incentives, further complicating the fight against the practice.
Sebei leaders are also calling for political will and improved accessibility to schools to raise literacy levels in the region, as these factors are believed to contribute to combating FGM.
Female Genital Mutilation involves the cutting of female genitals and is considered a violation of human rights. In Uganda, the practice is common among various ethnic groups, including the Sabiny in Kapchorwa, Bukwo, and Kween districts, as well as the Pokot, Tepeth, and Kadam in Nakapiripit and Amudat district.