Female Genital Mutilation Targeted In Several Countries

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Reports of progress in halting, documenting and legally barring Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) come in this week from multiple countries and news sources. 

In Uganda (yes...that Uganda), MP Chris Baryomunsi submitted a bill to imprison practicioners of FGM to lengthy jail terms of 10 years to life. 

The Bill says a person commits aggravated FGM in situations where death occurs as a result of the act or where a victim suffers disability or is infected with the HIV virus.

It defines FGM as the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia for non-therapeutic reasons. [Source: Sunday Monitor]

The bill had been tabled in September, but passed this week with no protest from a single MP.

In Gambia, GAMCOTRAP organized an event to draw awareness to FGM and societal / cultural factors that negatively impact rural women.  A new milling machine was installed, in part, by the German Embassy in order to alleviate substandard work and living conditions for rural women.  In prepared statements and events coordinated with the milling machine's debut, GAMCOTRAP arranged guest speakers, music and dance to highlight positive aspects of culture in this area. 

Also present, were 100 women who had been spared FGM.  These efforts were designed to stress the positive and respectful elements of a shared culture along with glimpses of what is possible in the absence of FGM and other negative cultural practices.

GAMCOTRAP Executive Director, Dr Isatou Touray spoke at one event:

Speaking on the objective of GAMCOTRAP's intervention in providing support to the women in the Makka Masireh cluster she said they have realized that it is one of the remote and socially excluded areas in the country and the women are multi-tasked with difficult chores. "They are faced with the task of the triple roles of reproduction, production and community management," she remarked.  She thanked the ex-circumcise, Kumba Damba of Makka Masireh for the bold step taken in droping the knife for her foresight in appealing for a milling machine, which will benefit the communities that support her in her decision to stop FGM.

In her words of appreciation to GAMCOTRAP the release went on, Kumba Damba noted that it was through her awareness creation that she saw the need to stop female genital mutilation along with all the communities she served. She expressed joy in witnessing the inauguration of the milling machine that will benefit the Makka Masireh cluster communities.  Other speakers included the Alkalo of the village, men and women's representatives from the surrounding villages. [Source: Daily Observer}

In Tanzania, we see glimpses of how some feel the impact of the next phase of combatting FGM - after the laws have been passed.  It's never a one-and-done affair, combatting institutionalized oppression. 

Many women are finding that they gained physical health in the end of FGM, but lost status, value and freedom from persecution.  Men openly mock uncircumcised women as 'less than' real women.  The challenges to the institutionalized sexism have brought out deeply embedded beliefs that uncircumcised females are still only girls; that uncircumcised females are promiscuous and that bad things will happen. 

Women's value is still measured in terms of the dowry they fetch for their fathers via marriage.  Ghati Chacha, a young mother relates her experience and situation:

"I refused because (the previous) President Mkapa had banned circumcision in Tanzania," she said.  After this, however, Chacha was forced to marry an 80-year-old man because, according to the local Kurya custom in the Mara district of northern Tanzania, she was no longer suitable for a man of her own age.

"I was forced marry by my father," she said. "I tried to refuse, but my father ordered me to leave home. He was paid only 12 cows for my marriage."[Source: IPS]


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