Moves to Criminalise FGM in Uganda

Ugandan MP Chris BaryomunsiEarlier this month a member of Uganda's parliament introduced a bill to criminalize female genital mutilation, a traditional coming-of-age practice of cutting off all or part of a girl's clitoris.

Though relatively rare in Uganda, the mutilation is still practiced by two ethnic communities in the eastern part of the country, and about 500 young women in Uganda endured genital mutilations in the most recent season for the initiation rite.

Chris Baryomunsi, a doctor elected to Parliament three years ago, says he has gained overwhelming support so far from male and female legislators throughout the country for the bill, receiving endorsements from members of many different backgrounds.

A key backer is the Parliament's deputy speaker Rebecca Kadaga, who has dedicated 2009 as the year to end female genital mutilation, also known as FGM, in Uganda.

Rukia Nadama, the state minister for gender and cultural affairs, has also endorsed the bill. She is working with leaders of the Sabiny and Pokot communities--where the majority of these rites are carried out--to educate them about the health risks associated with the cuttings, such as high rates of maternal and child mortality during childbirth, HIV transmission and the potential for these mutilations to cause fatal bleeding.