Uganda Bans Female Mutilation

December 12, 2009

The Uganda parliament has unanimously passed a bill banning female genital mutilation, a practice mostly used in the northeastern region of the country.

Female mutilation, or female circumcision, involves the removal of a female’s clitoris or other genital parts at a very young age in hopes of ensuring virginity and in preparation for marriage. Critics say it prevents pleasure for women during sexual intercourse, leads to complications during childbirth and increases other health risks such as infection and bleeding.

Anyone convicted of female circumcision may face up to10 years in jail, or a life sentence if a victim dies as a result of the surgery.

In some countries FGM is seen as a way to ensure virginity (BBC)

MP Alice Alaso told the BBC’s Focus on Africa program that, “It’s a very bad practice. It’s cruel, it traumatizes people, it’s led children to drop out of school, it’s a health hazard.  This is a warning signal – whoever dares practice female genital mutilation will be subject to the law.”

And another MP, Lulume Bayiga, said the ‘law would liberate both men and women – who often face being ostracised for shunning the custom.’

Uganda’s shadow health minister, Francis Epetait, told AFP, “This operation is so painful, so cruel, and these so-called surgeons are paid to do it.  I supported the bill with all my strength and heart.”

In 2007, the United Nations passed a resolution which labeled female genital mutilation “irreparable, irreversible abuse” and deemed it  a violation of the rights of women.   The United Nations estimates that 100 to 140 million women worldwide are victims of female mutilation.

Zimbabwe HIV/AIDS Rate Drops

December 12, 2009

Zimbabwe’s HIV/AIDS infection rate has dropped to below 14 percent.

According to Voice of American, Zimbabwe’s HIV/AIDS epidemic, which started at least 23 years ago, used to record infection rates of more than 25 percent of the population,but  a demographic survey conducted in 2006 found the infection rate had dropped to 18 percent.

Now, health care authorities, say it is at 13.75 percent.

Rwanda has declared a war on government corruption and has fined and jailed more than four of the country’s top leaders to prove they mean business.

The UK’s Telegraph writes, “Most African governments like talking about their fight against corruption, seen as one of the biggest barriers to development on the continent, but Rwanda, most notably for the past two years, has been putting its money where its mouth is.”


According to AFP, close to 1,000 people have been investigated for corruption in this small central African nation.

Rwanda ranked top amongst central and eastern African countries and 89th worldwide in the 2009 report of Transparency International, which compares the anti-corruption efforts of 180 countries.

The chief prosecutor for Rwanda, Martin Ngoga, is leading the crusade against economic and financial crimes in politics.

Ngoga, despite the high praise from world organizations, states,  “I am keen not to be complacent about our very modest achievements. Even if Transparency International says that Rwanda is less corrupt, it is not a very good position. It is still a comparison among the corrupt.”

Rwanda has earned the unique distinction of being the first country in the world to be declared free of landmines through the Ottawa Treaty recognition process.

Ben Remfrey of the Mines Awareness Trust, which supervised the clearance, told the BBC World Service, “Rwanda has made history by becoming the first country in the world to be officially declared free from landmines.  Rwanda had a problem, it wasn’t huge but it was still significant… and had a big social and economic impact.”

Landmines were laid in the years leading up to the 1994 Rwanda genocide, killing or severely injuring hundreds of people. But, over the past three years more than over 9,000 have been destroyed by Rwandan soldiers.

In a UNICEF press release, representative, Joseph Foumbi congratulated Rwanda, stating, “This declaration is extremely significant as it shows to the world that a poor country, which has been devastated by war, can still take strong action to ensure the rights, lives and well-being of its children.”

The Mirror focused on another benefit of being declared ‘landmine free’.  Gareth Thomas, Africa Minister at the Department for International Development, wrote the newspaper, said, ” Removing landmines means will a massive boost to the farming industry, and this will mean a brighter future for people of Rwanda.”

About 70 countries remain affected by landmines, which claimed nearly 5,200 casualties around the world last year, according to Relief Web.