Ugandans are going to Kenya to undergo female genital mutilation (FGM) as a way to escape tough penalties against the practice in Uganda, the government said.
Despite having been outlawed in Uganda in 2010, FGM, where the genitalia of a woman is cut for non-medical reasons, is done mainly among the Sabiny and the Pokot in Uganda.
“We note that the practice of FGM is becoming complex. The introduction of laws prohibiting FGM has ushered in new dynamics. Previously FGM would be public and highly celebrated. Today, cutting sessions are now conducted in hiding and across the borders due to fear of the law,” said Peace Mutuuzo, the State Minister for Gender and Culture Affairs, on Thursday during an inter-ministerial meeting for addressing cross-border FGM.
“There is a need for strong collaboration and harmonising of laws to curb the vice,” she added.
Daniel Alemu, the deputy country representative of United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), revealed that last year, “the Kenya Police Service together with the Uganda Police worked together to rescue 12 girls who had crossed into Kenya from Uganda to undergo FGM.”
Dr. Linah Jebii Kilimo, the Kenyan Chief Administrative Secretary at Ministry of Public Service and Gender, said his country is open to working with Uganda to address the cross-border FGM. She added that they are still trying to get to the bottom of what occasions the movements.
She attributed the cross-border movement to factors of “affordability, fear of being arrested in their native country and lack of proximity to FGM sites in their country.”
Uganda managed to reduce the prevalence of FGM from 1.4% in 2011 to 0.3%in 2016. But preliminary findings show that there was a 56% rise in FGM during Covid-19 pandemic. Mutuuzo attributed this to closure of schools.