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Religious leaders speak with one voice, pledge to end Female Genital Mutilation

Religious leaders in Uganda have spoken with one voice, strongly condemning Female Genital Mutilation with a pledge to accelerate action and ensure the practice is eliminated in Uganda. 

Congregating together under their umbrella body the Inter Religious Council of Uganda (IRCU), the different faiths said they are united against FGM, a practice they say is “against God’s order of creation.”

“All harmful traditional practices against women and in particular female genital mutilation of all types do not have religious ground and support and are condemned,” said Mufti of Uganda Sheikh Shaban Ramadhan Mubajje. 

The religious leader was making a statement on behalf of the IRCU at the third edition of the End Female Genital Mutilation annual marathon in Kapchorwa district in eastern Uganda on September 16. Under the theme: Run to #EndFGM:  Promote the health of women and girls in Sebei region” the annual Marathon is part of the global efforts to accelerate the elimination of female genital mutilation.

Describing FGM as a ‘critical issue’, the Mufti who is also the chairman of the IRCU said there is evidence that FGM practice has terrible consequences on women and girls including death, disability, sexual dysfunction and complications during childbirth.

“The act is often performed on minors in early adolescence is a form of Gender-Based Violence that infringes on the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and girls, undermines their dignity,” the Mufti said.

In his speech, Archbishop of the Church of Uganda Reverend Stanley Ntagali concurred with the Mufti: “I want to assure you that there are possibilities of totally eliminating FGM in this region and the gains will be sustained since culture is dynamic and not static,” he said.

The Arch Bishop also revealed that since 2015 when the first marathon was held, fifteen communities have abandoned the practice since, he said, with a request to elders to find alternative ways to practicing their culture.

 “FGM harms the lives of women and girls psychologically, physically and emotionally…we can give up FGM without giving up our culture,” he added.

The religious leaders pledged and committed to educating the public through houses of worship, organizing community dialogues for parents to ensure that FGM is widely discussed and mobilizing communities to ensure that all girl children attend primary and secondary school and provided with the safety to exercise their rights to life.

In his remarks, UNFPA Uganda representative Mr Alain Sibenaler expressed humility and gratitude to all the women and girls who participated in the run. He also appealed to men and boys to get engaged in protecting their men and boys in protecting daughters, sisters, wives and all women from FGM and other harmful practices.

The Representative also acknowledged the efforts by government steered by H.E. Yoweri Kaguta Museveni the President of the Republic of Uganda and the Speaker of parliament Hon. Rebecca Kadaga, Ministers, members of parliament, district local governments, civil society and the communities and thanked all the religious leaders for initiating the approach of using talent to build the momentum to end FGM.

“Let’s all strive for a future where every girl will grow up able to experience her inherent dignity, human rights and equality. UNFPA is proud to be part of this landmark event and commits to continue supporting national efforts to end FGM. No more cutting of women and girls,” Mr Sibenaler said.

Organized by the Church of Uganda and Sebei Diocese in partnership with Ministry of Gender labour and Social Development (MGLSD), Kapchorwa District Local Government and Uganda National Athletics Federation with Support from United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the marathon attracted hundreds of participants from across the Sebei region of Kapchorwa, Kween and Bukwo. 

According to The Uganda Demographic and Health survey (2011), FGM prevalence in Uganda is at 1.4%. While this may appear low, in regions like Sebei, prevalence goes up to over 90%.