Uganda to outlaw female genital mutilation

But when do such bans actually work?

Published July 8, 2009 1:02PM (EDT)

Let's make sure this one doesn't get lost in this week's Palin/Jackson shuffle: Uganda has moved to outlaw female genital mutilation.

"God knew what he was doing when he created us. Do you think you are more intelligent than God?" President Yoweri Museveni asked the crowd at a recent event launching a campaign against the practice, Uganda's New Vision reported. "There is no part of the human body that is useless."

The president also dismissed any defense of FGM as a "cultural" practice, calling it dangerous not only to women but also to the babies they may later have trouble bearing. According to the Guardian, he also "pledged to help provide an alternative source of income for women who earn a living circumcising girls." 

The event also featured 300 girls taking an oath never to undergo the procedure.

Of course, Uganda is not the first nation -- in Africa or elsewhere -- to ban the practice; though President Museveni had been hailed as a member of a new generation of African leaders helping bring an end to the autocratic rule of so-called big men throughout the continent, this move hardly makes Uganda some sort of epicenter of women's or human rights. Plus, where such bans do exist, a wide gap often remains between enactment and enforcement. Real change will depend on grass-roots education efforts by locals guided by local organizations -- as in Senegal, Burkina Faso and Gambia, where, one by one, communities are publicly declaring an end to the practice. A ban is a necessary start, to be sure, but when it comes to FGM, it takes a village to save a child. 

By Lynn Harris

Award-winning journalist Lynn Harris is author of the comic novel "Death by Chick Lit" and co-creator of She also writes for the New York Times, Glamour, and many others.

MORE FROM Lynn Harris

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Broadsheet Love And Sex