Uganda: Bill Introduced in Parliament to Criminalize FGM
Wednesday, June 3, 2009 1:35 PM

Chris Baryomunsi, a member of Uganda’s parliament, introduced a bill that would criminalize female genital mutilation in Uganda.  FGM is a traditional practice in many African countries involving the removal of female external genitalia for non-medical purposes.  In communities that practice the procedure, FGM is viewed as a rite of passage for girls entering womanhood.  According to Women’s eNews, Baryomunsi believes FGM is an abuse of human rights that likely originated from a desire to ensure the fidelity of women by eliminating their ability to feel sexual pleasure. Side effects of FGM include complications during childbirth, heightened risk of contracting HIV/AIDS, fatal bleeding, and recurring urinary tract infections. 


Though FGM has been on the decline in Uganda due to efforts by the Ugandan government and organizations such as the United Nations Population Fund to educate on the health hazards of FGM, the government has not officially illegalized FGM. FGM remains common in two ethnic communities in Uganda. The FGM rates in one of those communities increased dramatically from 90 mutilations in 2006 to 500 in 2008. 


Baryomunsi’s bill, which would require those caught performing mutilations to serve up to 15 years in jail, has gained popular support from legislators in Uganda, and it appears the bill will receive the two-thirds needed to become law.  Baryomunsi recognizes that illegalizing FGM will not eliminate FGM in Uganda, however.  “I am aware that if you don’t do adequate mobilization it might go underground and people might do it in dark corners.  But we’ll intensify our education campaigns in the communities.” 


Compiled from: Rebecca Harshbarger,Ugandan Physician-Lawmaker Moves to Criminalize FGM,” Women’s eNews (31 May 2009); “Uganda: Women Petition Court to Outlaw FGM,” IRIN News (30 April 2007); “Female Genital Mutilation,” World Health Organization (May 2008).