UN calls for an end to violence against women

Uganda has witnessed an increase in gender-based violence since the Covid-19 lockdown was imposed.

The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) representative in Uganda, Mr Alain Sibenaler, has called for an end to injustice and impunity against victims of gender-based violence.

Launching the State of the World Population 2020 report titled “Against my will: defying the practices that harm women and girls and undermine equality”, Mr Sibenaler said that Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and child marriages particularly remain widespread in Uganda though prohibited by law.

The UNFPA office in Uganda said that FGM and child marriage bring consequences that violate basic rights of women and girls.

Mr Sibenaler said that Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and child marriages particularly remain widespread in Uganda despite prohibited by law.

Speaking at UNFPA country office in Kampala, Mr Sibeneler observed that the COVID-19 pandemic has intensified violence against women and girls decrying reports that many of the girls have been impregnated by adults and forced into early marriages in Uganda.

In the State of World Population 2020 Mr Sibenaler said that more than four million girls are likely to be subjected to female genital mutilation and 12 million may be forced into marriage this year.

It highlights at least 19 human rights violations against women and focuses on three most prevalent ones, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), extreme bias against daughters in favour of sons and child marriage.

The practice of female genital mutilation is recognised as a violation of human rights of girls and women as outlined in several international and regional treaties.

Uganda is one of the countries that outlawed the Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation law but Mr Sibeneler says it has not been implemented as envisaged.

Female Genital Mutilation involves the cutting of female genitalia for non-medical purposes. Medical experts say it has far reaching consequences on women and girls’ health.

In Uganda, it is practiced among the Sabiny in Bukwo, Kween and Kapchorwa districts, and among the Tepeth and Pokot communities.

The Uganda Demographic Health Survey of 2016 had indicated that FGM had gone down by 1.4 to 0.3 percent. Another study found that 95% of the population where it is practiced do not support it.

Early last year, government realised the emergence of criminal gangs in Kween, Kapchorwa and Bukwo. These gangs comprised of men and women would waylay the girls and force them into FGM.

Mr Charles Zirarema, the National Population Council Director for Planning, who represented the government at the launch of the report, said that the enforcement of the prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation has been curtailed by lack of awareness.

The launch of the report in Uganda coincided with the commemoration of the International Youth day. The UNFPA office in Uganda used the occasion to urge the policy makers and the public to pay attention to the needs and vulnerabilities of women, girls and young boys amid the global pandemic.

Mr Sibenaler said it is high time that the government together with its scientific advisory thought about the possibility of phased reopening of schools.

He thinks time is ripe for Uganda to put in place procedures to prevent COVID but to open schools so that children have opportunity to go back and learn. All schools have been closed since mid-March.

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