Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) sometimes called female circumcision involves the cutting or removal of some or all of the external female genitalia – for nonmedical reasons. The procedure largely involves the removal of the clitoral hood, clitoral glans, removal of the inner and outer labia, closure of the vulva and infibulation – leaving a small hole so that the person can pass urine and menstrual fluid. It is important to note that FGM is most common in Africa, Asia and the Middle East and prevalent among girls between the ages of 15 and 49.
As at 2016, an estimated 200 million women in 30 countries (27 of these countries are in Africa) were circumcised (UNICEF, 2016). According to adherents, the main reason for female circumcision is the belief that circumcising females helps in controlling sexuality and keeping women sexually pure – until marriage. Though this benefit is not scientifically proven, there are proven negative health defects of the practice. Some of these negative defects of FGM include: development of cyst, difficulties in becoming pregnant, painful menstrual periods, complications during childbirth and difficulties in urinating. In descending order, FGM is most prevalent in Nigeria, Egypt, Mali, Eritrea, Sudan, Central African Republic, Ghana (northern Ghana), Somalia and Djibouti.
Nigeria is among the 27 countries in Africa practicing female genital mutilation and the country has the highest number of ‘victims’ in the world.
Nigerian government condemns the practice but there is no sign of decline. Of the six zones in Nigeria, FGM is most common in the south-south (77%), south-east (68%) and the south-west (65%).
There is a need to increase awareness in Nigeria that female genital mutilation is not only a violation of a fundamental human right of the victims, but also poses health risks to them. The major setbacks in the fight against female circumcision in Nigeria are the absence of enabling laws banning the practice and strict adherence to tradition.
In Nigeria, many individuals and groups opposing FGM are being persecuted because it is regarded as a traditional practice. Take the story of Mr. Anthony Eluigwe from Abia state who got married in 2009 to Bilkisu Eluigwe, a woman from another region. After they had had their second child, a female they named Diamond, his kinsmen insisted that both Mrs. Bilkisu and her daughter Diamond get mutilated. They resisted, which led to a series of persecution that ultimately resulted to Mr. Anthony’s death. Sadly even his death didn’t stop the persecution. His wife was threatened that her kids would be seized from her if she doesn’t undergo the mutilation. Presently she is hiding in fear for her life. Her parents are being harassed on a constant basis
This sad example is one among many cases of Nigerians that are being persecuted over their resistance to female circumcision. The practice of FGM is anti-dignity and also against the fundamental human rights of women and as such the campaign against its continued practice in Nigeria must be intensified. Female circumcision is cruel, inhuman and degrading as it involves violating the rights to good health, integrity, freedom from pains/torture and the right to life – there are instances where mutilations have led to deaths.
What is to be done?
The government – local, state and federal – must as a matter of urgency/emergency prohibit the practice of FGM in the country – as other countries in the world are beginning to do and also educate traditional rulers and their subjects about the overwhelming dangers of FGM.
– Enyi writes from Kaduna.
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