The Ugandan parliament unanimously passed a bill late last week that bans female genital mutilation (FGM) in the country. According to United Press International, those who are convicted of performing FGM will face up to 10 years in prison and can face life sentences in instances where the girl dies from the procedure. Parliament is also considering an amendment to the bill that would allow compensation for victims of FGM.
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni originally announced plans to pass a law banning FGM in July. Fred Opolot, a government spokesman, told CNN, “A majority of Ugandans felt it is a disgusting act, but you have to remember that this is a cultural belief that has been practiced for generations…that’s what took the bill so long to pass.”
FGM is the partial or total removal of external genitalia. The practice both increases the risk of HIV transmission and increases infant and maternal mortality rates. In many cases, FGM decreases women’s sexual satisfaction. Approximately 3 million young women annually are forced to undergo FGM as a form of birth control and as initiation into womanhood. FGM is practiced as a rite of passage in 28 African countries.