ABOUT UGANDA'S CLIMATE, CULTURE AND ECONOMY: Other Pages of Interest The Batooro People in Uganda,Traditional way of Greetings among Batooro... The Batooro People Batooro Culture, Batooro traditional economy, Batooro political set up! Batooro traditional economy The Batooro People and their Culture in Uganda. The Batooro People and their Culture . Batwa-Bambuti Pygmies,Bambuti people of Africa,Batwa tribe uganda. Batwa-Bambuti Pygmies.... The Batwa Forest People, Pygmies in Uganda, Uganda Batwa tribe, Batwa Culture ...The Batwa Forest People Entebbe Airport in Uganda, Entebbe Arrivals and Departures, Entebbe Uganda Hotel Entebbe Airport in Uganda Female Genital Mutilation,Cutting, (FGC/FGM) ,Female Circumcision in Sabiny Sebe Female Genital Mutilation First Obote Regime ,Obote President in Uganda, Obote 1 Government in Uganda First Obote Regime The Hamites, Nilotic language in Uganda, Nile Hamites and their Culture The Hamites The Iteso People of Uganda,Iteso culture,Iteso origins Iteso general norms The Iteso People of Uganda Japadhola People of Uganda Japadhola culture,Japadhola Tribe in Uganda Japadhola People Kakwa People of Uganda,Culture, Tribe in Uganda Kakwa People of Uganda,Culture, Tribe in Uganda Kumam People of Uganda, Kumam Culture, Uganda Kuman traditional Marriage festiva Kumam People of Uganda Karimojong People of Uganda,Karamoja origins, Karimojo people culture guide Karimojong People Langi People of Uganda ,Lango culture in Uganda, Lango tribe in Uganda Langi People of Uganda Lord Resistance Army, L.R.A. Joseph Kony War in Uganda, Acholi Wars in Northern Lords Resistance Army Lugbara People of Uganda, Lugwara History , Lugwabara Culture, Lugwabara Tribes Lugbara People of Uganda Luo People of Uganda , Tribes, Cultures and Origins Luo People of Uganda SECTIONS IN THE CHAPTER • Introduction • What is FGM/FGC? • Where is FGM practiced? • Classification of female genital circumcision and how it is done • The new trend of female genital circumcision • Effects of FGC/FGM • History of FGC/FGM and Why it is practiced • FGC a gender and human rights issue • Campaigns against female genital circumcision yielding results • Detailed effects of FGM/FGC The crowd at Kapchorwa Boma grounds is clapping passionately as a woman in her fifties is being brought to the front of the pavilion to give a speech. The woman is carried aloft in a chair, which two men are carrying on their shoulders, making one wonder what kind of VIP treatment people have invented here. Yet the woman looks sad for such 'treatment'. It is only when she settles to speak that we realize that Betty Cheboi (as she introduces herself) is disabled. About 30years ago, Cheboi says she was a healthy, agile and active young woman, married with children. She was living a happy life, until one day when the people in her village discovered she had not been circumcised as the Sabiny (people of Kapchorwa) culture demanded. According to Sabiny custom, every young girl and boy is supposed to be circumcised in a traditional rite of passage to adulthood. In December every even year, young girls and boys in Kapchorwa are circumcised after weeks of preparation that end in festivities and merry-making following the circumcision. Parents of the girls who get circumcised, especially the mothers are given gifts, ranging from goats, cows to clothes to thank them for attaining the status of getting their daughters circumcised. The community members join the family in celebrating the maturityof the girl as she has now achieved respectable status. Cheboi recounts the events of December1976 when she was forcefully circumcised. "I remember that dreadful day as if it was yesterday," she says. "I did not want to be circumcised. I was tied up and held down while the 'cutter' did her business. It was the most appalling experience of my life," she adds resignedly. This is because the circumcision did not go well. Cheboi bled for more than two weeks, during which she experienced excruciating pain. When the wound finally did heal, Cheboi discovered that she was unable to walk. She had been paralyzed. She later leant that the story was no different from two of her village mates with whom she had been circumcised. To make matters worse, a few months after the circumcision , her husband abandoned her. "I had a life then and the circumcisers took it from me. No girl or woman should have to endure this horrific practice," she says as she concludes her message to the gathering. This is a story many people in Kapchorwa might have heard, as Cheboi has been often called upon to tell the public about the negative effects of female genital cutting/mutilation (FGC/FGM). But, she says no one can tell the sadness brought on by the pain and deadness in her lower body that resulted from thecircumcision. Cheboi like many girls in Kapchorwa and many parts of the world had to undergo circumcision because customs in their communities demanded so. While all girls who are circumcised are not as unlucky as Cheboi, according to Reproductive Education and Community Health (REACH), an NGO that is at the center of fighting female circumcision in Kapchorwa, many girls who are circumcised suffer a number of physical and psychological disorders. What is FGM/FGC? Female Genital Mutilation In Uganda Synonymously identified as female genital cutting or female genital circumcision, "Female genital mutilation" is usually performed on girls or adolescent women. According to the World Health Organization, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM/FGC) constitutes all procedures, which involve partial or total removalof the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs whether for cultural or any other non-therapeutic (curative) reason. The types of procedures undertaken in female genital cutting/mutilation (FGC/FGM) can be broadly classified into four groups, ranging from the removal of a small part of the clitoris, all the way to infibulation, where the clitoris and labia minora are completely excised (cut out), the wound sewn shut, and just a small opening is left for urine and menstrual flow. Reasons for the practice One of the most common explanations for continuing the FGM/C practice is local custom. Women themselves are sometimes unwilling to give up the practice, as they see it as a long-standing tradition passed on from generation to generation. The practitioners are often unaware of the real implications of FGM/C and the health risks that it poses. Family honour, cleanliness, protection against spells and the insurance of virginity and faithfulness to the husband are used as rationales to continue the practice. Additional factors underlying the practice include: • Sociological: As an initiation for girls into womanhood,social integration and the maintenance of social cohesion; • Hygienic and aesthetic: Where it is believed that thefemale genitalia are dirty and unsightly; • Sexual: To control or reduce female sexuality; • Health: In the belief that it enhances fertility and child survival; • Religious: In the belief that it is a religious requirement; • Socio-economic factors: o Where it is believed that FGM/C is a prerequisite for marriage and where women are largely dependent on men - economic necessity can be a determinant to undergo the procedure. o FGM/C may may also be a major source of income for circumcisers.Various cultures offer many justifications for these practices. A girl who is not “circumcised” is considered unclean in some communities and therefore unable to marry. A girl who does not have her clitoris removed can also be considered a great danger and, ultimately, fatal to a man’s health. Where is FGM practiced? FGM/FGC is practiced in more than 28 African countries, a number of Asian countries as well as some communities in South and North America as a cultural practice. The worst form of the practice, called infibulation - the removal of the external genitalia and the stitching of the vaginal opening - is common to Djibouti, Sudan and Somalia, and also is reported in Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mali and Nigeria. According to No Peace Without Justice, an Italian NGO working to eliminate female genital mutilation, there are now between 120 million to 130 million women worldwide who have undergone female genital mutilation. "Another two million girls and women are subjected to the practice every year, which takes place in 28 African and Arab countries, as well as by immigrant communities from these regions," the NGO says in a brief about female genital mutilation. The Somali ethnic group in Kenya has the highest prevalence of female genital mutilation - 97 per cent of Somali women have undergone the procedure. In Egypt, 97 per cent of married women aged 15-49 have been circumcised. Some countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda have a 5% incidence. In Uganda, female genital cutting/mutilation (FGC/FGM) is practiced among the Sabiny tribe found in the eastern district of Kapchorwa, at the foot of Mt. Elgon. The procedure of female genital circumcision is often carried out by traditional circumcisers, often old women. In a large number of cases, it is performed in non-sterile surroundings with the girl forcibly restrained. Traditional practitioners use razor blades, knives (in some cases specially designed for the practice), and pieces of glass or scissors. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), there have been reports of sharp stones used as cutting tools, as well as cauterization or burning. In recent years, circumcisions have also been carried out in hospitals and clinics, with doctors instead of traditional "cutters" being employed to circumcise women/girls. The new trend of female genital circumcision The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) recently sounded an alarm against a new trend of female genital mutilation where parents are using health-care workers to perform cutting in the belief that any medical problems of female circumcision can be minimized. In an appeal for the International Day against female genital mutilation on 6th February 2007, UNFPA Executive Director, Thoraya Ahmed Obaid expressed concern about what she dubs as 'The medicalization'of the practice. She says that increasing awareness about the heath risks posed by female genital mutilation has led to more and more parents turning to health care professionals to carry out the cutting in clinical settings in the belief that it will be safer for the girl. She warns that younger and younger girls are being subjected to the practice by their parents to reduce complaints or the possibility of refusal to participate. While the health implications of female genital mutilation are very serious and form a key component of the anti female genital mutilation campaign, many say that focusing almost entirely on the health aspects has not addressed the violation of rights or contributed to the elimination of the practice. Instead, a strong focus on health implications appears to have contributed to the adoption of less severe forms of female genital mutilation or having medical professionals carry out the procedure in a more sanitary manner. A Population Council study in 2001 found that 70 per cent of circumcised Abagusii girls in Western Kenya reported having been cut by a nurse or doctor, whereas virtually all of their mothers had been cut by a traditional circumciser. Effects of FGC/FGM The effects of FGM can vary. Not all women will experience severe ill effects like Cheboi. But many do. The WHO says that the immediate physical effects can include violent pain, backache, suppressed pain, haemorrhage, post operative shock, damage to other organs, acute urine retention, tetanus and septicaemia. HIV and Hepatitis B transmission can also occur when simultaneous operations are performed on a group of girls using the same tool(s). Long term effects can include difficulties with sexual intercourse, menstrual problems, recurrent urinary and kidney infections, chronic infections of the uterus and vagina, infertility, acute problems during labour and birth, incontinence, prolapses, chronic vulva abscesses and difficulty in using contraceptive methods and sexual dysfunction. The psychological effects can include anxiety prior to operation, trauma, sense of humiliation, sense of betrayal by parents, severe depression, loss of sleep, nightmares and post traumatic stress syndrome. A Survey on the Psychosexual Implications of Female Genital Mutilation on Urhobo Women of The Niger Delta Communities of Nigeria (U. J. Mukoro Department of Nursing Science, College of Health Sciences, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria) shows that the practice of female genital mutilation is painful and it serves as a major source of infection on the woman on whom it is carried out. Also, the study discovered that the practice causes dyspareunia, frigidity and lack of sexual satisfaction. History of FGC/FGM and Why it is practiced The exact origin of FGC remains a mystery. The practice is known to have existed for several thousand years. However, research indicates that in the 5th Century BC, Egyptians used it as a ritual prior to marriage. Early Romans and Arabs did it for cosmetic reasons or sometimes as an indication of slavery and subordination. It is believed that the practice spread south into Africa through trade and the spread of Islam. While there is no definitive evidence documenting why or when female genital mutilation began, many theorize that it provided families a means to ensure virginity before marriage. In some communities, female genital mutilation is seen as necessary to preserve girls' suitability for marriage and to protect the honor of the family, clan or tribe. According to WHO, female genital mutilation is also perpetuated by various myths including beliefs that the woman's clitoris would grow if left uncut potentially harming a baby in childbirth. "These beliefs increase the social pressure faced by uncircumcised women, who run the risk of isolation and ridicule in their communities or men's refusal to marry them, in societies where women depend on their husbands for their economic and social status. Families in communities which have practiced female genital mutilation for centuries, often lacking access to other points of view, usually believe that circumcision must be carried out for the girl's own good." (WHO) FGM is deeply rooted in tradition and is supported by a wide range of beliefs and norms. It is thought by some, that female genital mutilation prevents a woman seeking sexual partners before or outside marriage, thus ensuring her fidelity as a wife. Psychosexual reasons include beliefs that a non-excised woman cannot conceive, or is not chaste. Some believe it is a form of contraceptive, while others believe it enhances fertility. Other Sociological reasons given to support the practice of female genital mutilation include: • making all females equal • the preservation of family honour • the protection of girls from rape in times of war • increasing a girl's marriageability • fostering social cohesion • giving a girl access to resources in the community and avoiding the mockery and isolation experienced by girls who have not undergone the practice. In those communities where it is common practice, girls who have not undergone FGM are considered unclean (UNFPA). FGC a gender and human rights issue From a human rights perspective, female genital mutilation is a violation of women and girls' basic human rights including the right to life, the right to be protected from cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, the right to physical integrity, and the right to health. Women rights activists have also attacked the practice of female genital circumcision as gender biased violence against women, and as one aimed at maintaining women as subordinates to men. They say many of the beliefs that support female circumcision are aimed at keeping women as subordinate to men as possible. In some communities in Kenya for example, women are taught that sexual pleasure is for men alone, and that showing signs of pleasure during sexual intercourse brands a woman as having "low" morals. Beatrice Chelangat, the head of REACH in Kapchorwa says that traditionally, married women who are uncircumcised are not permitted to milk a cow and have to wait last in line for water at a well or tap. Also, a mother can only attend her son's circumcision ceremony if she herself is "clean" (circumcised). Because of these factors, some women like Cheboi who escaped female genital circumcision when they were unmarried, end up submitting to the ritual or are forced to do it during marriage. The major debate over the years has been whether to tackle female genital mutilation from a health perspective or a cultural one.