AMUDAT: Besides the traditional allies in the campaign against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and the known interventions by the government and its partners to eliminate FGM in the country, there is a group of unusual allies that is defying the gods or FGM spirits - the Pokot men. They are indirectly boosting the anti-FGM campaign.
Previously, marrying “uncircumcised women” was unheard of in this area because in was deemed an act of defiance against the spirits. A man who did so would face the wrath of the gods in addition to being a subject of ridicule in the village.
Today, Pokot men have joined their Sabiny counterparts by marrying “uncircumcised women”. This defiance has been ongoing for a long time but these men kept it to themselves in fear of further annoying the gods.
But, for some reason, they have decided to not only reveal the secret behind their act but also the secrets behind their secret. They are not only admitting to marrying “uncircumcised women” but also giving reasons why they have and will continue doing so.
Sex is of course a key issue in all this, but the Pokot men say they are also concerned about the complications during child birth and afraid of being arrested under the 2010 FGM/C Act. There is a rumour spreading among Pokot communities that anyone associated with FGM in any way faces arrest.
Pokot men do not need to be sensitized on some of the health risks of FGM. Their own cut wives are victims of such risks.
They have had to sell their precious cows to pay for the transport and surgery of their wives who cannot deliver normally because they underwent FGM.
Many have seen their wives suffer the painful and degrading conditions of Fistula only to be told that FGM is the primary cause.
Kurong Godfrey, a Community FGM Monitor says his childhood girlfriend bled to near death after undergoing FGM. This experience made him realize the suffering caused and the damage done by FGM on girls and women. He decided to join the growing list of men who are defying the FGM spirits.
The decision by many of the Pokot men to defy the gods and marry “uncircumcised women” has given courage and hope to many Pokot girls to say no to FGM because they know that cut or not cut; when they finish their studies and choose to get married, they will do so, have children normally and reach their full potential.
During the ongoing events to mark this year’s International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Amudat District yesterday, I met many Pokot girls who are no longer intimidated by the FGM spirits.
Many of the Pokot men admit having attended seminars in which they have learnt about the dangers of FGM to girls and women as well as the penalties that await those who engage in or aid the cutting of girls and women. They have seen several of their colleagues get arrested and charged in courts of law under the in pursuance of the 2010 FGM/C Act.
Therefore in addition to falling for “uncircumcised women” in pursuance of happiness during marriage and child delivery, Pokot men are not ready to languish in jail yet they have cows to look after.
They may not be outspoken against FGM but they are the silent allies whose movement is slowly but surely growing. I see a point where it will be big enough and strong enough to turn the tables against FGM among the Pokot in particular and Uganda in general.
Story and photo by Umar Weswala.