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.

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R. Kelly to Perform

December 4, 2009

American R&B singer R. Kelly will be performing in Kampala, Uganda next month.

East African Business Week reported that Zain, the concert promoter,  has invested almost $2.5m in the R. Kelly “I believe” concert at Kampala’s Lugogo indoor stadium.  Fred Masadde, the External Relations Manager at Zain, said, “How much we have put into the concert is not the issue. What is important is, this “I believe concert” will rock the whole of East Africa and it will be a concert that will be legendary.”

40,000 people are expected to be in attendance.

The company has previously contracted Akon and Wyclef Jean to perform.

Last month, the African nation of Uganda proposed an anti-homosexuality bill, making anyone caught engaging in homosexuality liable to be sentenced to life in prison. Homosexuals, who are HIV positive and knowingly take part in a sexual act or engage in sex with an individual under the age of 18, are liable to be sentenced to death under the crime of “aggravated homosexuality”.

Speaker Edward Sekandi told Daily Monitor that the new legislation was necessary “to do whatever we can to stop” homosexuality in Uganda. “We don’t support that practice.”

However, the global response has been anything but supportive of the initiative.

Scott Long, director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights Program at Human Rights Watch, said, “This draft bill is clearly an attempt to divide and weaken civil society by striking at one of its most marginalized groups.  The government may be starting here, but who will be next?”

The United States has said they will continue  President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) funding to Uganda despite the antigay violence.  QUEERTY, a gay blog, writes that the PEPFAR coordinator’s decision is  “…propping up a nation that still treats HIV as “the gay disease,” that further stigmatizez the queer community, and is now calling for the murder of anyone who dares involve themselves in same-sex sex.”

Truthwinsout.org comments on why they don’t support the PEPFAR decision. “HIV/AIDS in Uganda is primarily a heterosexual phenomenon; Goosby falsely contends that it is a homosexual phenomenon that threatens the “general population and the bill would criminalize key aspects of comprehensive HIV/AIDS prevention education and imprison health-care workers who refuse to report sexually active gay patients to the police.”

Uganda, the outgoing chair of the Commonwealth,  is expected to promote, among other issues, human rights as part of their membership in the international organization.

But, Times Online quoted Stephen Lewis, the former UN envoy on Aids in Africa, as saying Uganda’s bill goes against the Commonwealth’s principles, stating, “Nothing is as stark, punitive and redolent of hate as the Bill in Uganda.”

The proposed anti-homosexual bill also threatens anyone found promoting homosexuality or anyone who fails to report known homosexuality activity.

The bill is currently making its way through the country’s Parliament.

Homosexuality is illegal in most African countries.  Currently, South Africa is the only nation on the continent that legally allows gay marriage.