Sports among Sabiny may end Female Genital Mutilation

“Kapchorwa” for many Ugandans is synonymous with Olympics or running, simply because it is home to some of the greatest runners that Uganda has ever produced to compete internationally. Yet the same Kapchorwa is associated with Female Genital mutilation (FGM) since it’s home to the Sabiny. Almost every girl in Sabiny land has been subjected to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) as a teenager, and those growing-up will have to face the blade as they approach their puberty if the practice is not completely out-lawed.

Type 1 or Clitoridectomy and type 2 or excision, both involve partial or total removal of the clitoris and/or the clitoral hood and the labia minora, with or without excision of the labia majora. Usually, a blade is applied to them without an anesthetic. Campaigners want the practice to stop and to stop soon. Turutea Chelangat ,a resident of Kaworyo Village in Kabei subcounty, Bukwo district was a surgeon for 2 years before a law banning the practice of FGM was passed in 2009 by the parliament of Uganda. Now aged 77, she does not understand why the Government out-lawed FGM.

Although it has been stopped, I do not see any reason, why because people still do it in hiding anyway” is what she told us when we asked if it was important for Government to outlaw the practice.

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Blades used for FGM

Among the Sapiiny community, FGM is seen as an initiation of girls into womanhood. Once cut, the girls are then deemed ready for marriage. Besides being a spiritual obligation, for Chelangat, FGM was a business. She charged 20,000 shillings and a hen for every cut. She admitted to having cut over 100 girls during her two years as a ‘surgeon’. She however, never admitted to struggling to breakaway from this practice like many surgeons had, but maintained that she had only stopped because she feared the law. Some of the dangers of FGM include excessive bleeding when not properly done and sharing of knives, which could cause diseases and fistula among other complications. However, despite the existence of this law, the practice continues, although silently among the sabiny.

Whereas Chelangat is not actively condemning FGM, 24 year old Doreen Chesang, a long distance runner from Bukwo believes that her region can use sports to create awareness about the dangers of FGM and in the long run end it. Sebei land is re-known for producing long distance runners in Uganda.

Sports Unites us and has become a source of livelihood for most of us, we can use this to tell the world that we do not want to be cut” she said this after coming 2nd in a half marathon run that was organized by UNFPA to create awareness about the dangers of FGM.

The anti-FGM marathon was organised in partnership with the Church of Uganda Sebei diocese and Bukwo Local Government leadership to support Government efforts to eliminate FGM in the districts of Kapchorwa, Bukwo and Kween which are home to the Sapiiny; as well as raise hope and protect the young girls from undergoing a harmful cultural practice. It was also to commemorate the International day of the Girl Child.

Join me in a series of blogs to analyse how sports can be used as a tool to create awareness about the dangers of Female Gential Mutilation among the Sabiny.

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