It’s understandable that opponents of female genital mutilation (FGM) might feel discouraged as the new year gets underway.
From Uganda, where FGM was prohibited in 2010, came reports of 226 cases of FGM in December 2018 and January 2019 in the Sebei region.
“FGM cuts were conducted in broad-day light within Kween Town under the protection of panga-wielding youths,” wrote Alain Sibenaler, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) representative in Kampala, who answered questions from NPR via email. “This behavior encouraged communities to gather courage to openly undergo FGM in Kween whereas in [near-by towns] FGM is still conducted undercover.”
Leaders of the local Sabiny culture were protesting the fact that FGM has been declared illegal in Uganda and sending a message that the practice of cutting is a way of protecting “our culture, our identity,”
Another FGM story that made headlines came from the U.K.: A 37-year-old woman from Uganda was convicted of performing FGM on her 3-year-old daughter in their north London home. It was the first conviction for FGM in the United Kingdom, where the practice is illegal as it is in Uganda.
As the world takes note of the ninth annual International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation on February 6, such stories make real both the persistence of FGM and the difficulties encountered by those working to eliminate it – in Africa, Asia and Latin America, where it typically occurs, but also in immigrant communities in Europe, North America and Australia.
“This is not just happening in the developing world,” says Nahla Valji, senior gender adviser in the executive office of the U.N. Secretary-General. “This is happening in the developed world also.”
The opponents of FGM note that the practice has no medical benefit and can cause medical harm and death due to infection, severe bleeding and damage to various internal and reproductive organs that could make childbirth hazardous. Read more