Girls are undergoing Females Genital Mutilation (FGM) at younger ages today than 10 years ago according to a report released by the United Nations International Children’s Fund -UNICEF.
Female Genital Mutilation refers to the cutting or removal of some or all of the external female genitalia. The practice is mainly carried out as a rite of passage that symbolizes girls becoming women.
The report released yesterday as the world commemorates the International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM shows that many African countries and communities that still carry out FGM are now targeting younger girls. For instance, in neighboring Kenya, the practice is now being carried out on nine-year-old girls down from 12-year-olds previously while in West African countries like Gambia and Nigeria, the practice has dropped by two years.
In Gambia, for instance, the average age for cutting has dropped from age four to two and from three years to one in Nigeria.
According to UNICEF, at least 200 million girls and women today have been subjected to FGM from 31 countries, Uganda inclusive.
The report also highlights the importance of Education in fighting the vice.
According to the report, girls and women who attained primary education are 30 percent more likely than those with no education to oppose FGM while for those with secondary education the objecting percentage to 70 percent.
However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, schools could no longer be safe havens for girls as they were all closed. According to the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, the practice increased by 56 percent during the lockdown. Prior to the pandemic in 2020, the prevalence of FGM had reduced and remained stagnant for more than five years at 0.3 percent, down from 1.4 percent in 2011.
The minister of state for Family and Cultural Affairs Peace Mutuzo says the pandemic eroded all of the country’s progress.
“During the lockdown, girls who had enjoyed the safety of boarding schools were left home and most of them could not escape the knife; we visited many health facilities and learned that FGM had increased,” Mutuuzo said. Homes were not safe for the girls,” Mutuuzo said.
In Uganda, one percent of the communities in the country practice It is practiced in the districts of Bukwo, Kapchorwa, Moroto, Nakapiropirit, and Amudat.