Although several consequences of the traditional practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Africa, and especially in Nigeria, have been highlighted over and over again, but there is yet to be a concrete legislation against the barbaric act.
This formed the basis of the argument posited by a team of gynecologists from the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, Enugu, Nigeria, led by Dr. Tochukwu Christopher Okeke, requesting for the abolition as well as legislation against FGM in the country.
While the experts agreed that traditions and cultures are important aspects of any society in helping to mold the views and behavioural patterns of the society; they however queried the benefits of some traditions and cultural beliefs and practices like FGM, which are seen as cruel practices against the female gender, must be abolished. “A multidisciplinary approach is needed to tackle this deep-rooted legendary practice of FGM. There is a need for legislation in Nigeria with health education and female emancipation in the society”.
The gynecologists expressed their views through a study: “An Overview of Female Genital Mutilation in Nigeria”, published in the journal titled: Annals of Medical &Health Sciences Research.
They further asserted that the process of social change in the community with a collective, coordinated agreement to abandon the practice “community-led action” is therefore essential. With improvement in education and social status of women and increased awareness of complications of FGM, most women who underwent FGM disapproved of the practice and only very few are prepared to subject their daughters to such harmful procedures.
While analysing the role of education and social exposure in the eradication of this traditional connivance against the female folks, the gynaecologists stated that the more educated, more informed, and more active socially and economically a woman is, the more she is able to appreciate and understand the hazards of harmful practices like FGM and sees it as unnecessary procedure and refuses to accept such harmful practice and refuses to subject her daughter to such an operation.
Although there are four different types of FGM which are: clitoridectomy, excision, infibulation or pharaonic type and other procedures to the genitalia of women for non-medical purposes, the experts condemned all types of FGM, saying they offer no health benefits to the victims.
The international agencies on health and human rights have also condemned the act, describing it as a restriction of individual’s human rights.
According to the coalition of UNFPA, UNHCR, UNICEF, UNIFEM, WHO, FIGO, ICN, MWIA, WCPA, WMA, FGM of any type is a violation of the human rights of girls and women including: the right to non-discrimination on the grounds of sex; the right to life when the procedure results in death; the right to freedom from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; and the rights of the child.
“FGM is also a violation of a person’s right to the highest attainable standard of health, as it damages healthy genital tissue and can lead to severe consequences for girls’ and women’s physical and mental health. It is on the basis of these human rights violations that many countries have now passed legal sanctions against FGM”.
For the paucity of data, it is pretty difficult to get the statistics of Nigerian girls or women affected by FGM, but information from a team of experts says about 20 million females are affected in Nigeria, although the figures needs further verification.
However, for this years’ celebration of the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation, the Lagos State First Lady, Mrs Bolanle Ambode has called for more awareness campaign against the cruel practice, saying if the pace of the current advocacy is sustained, then FGM will fizzle out in no distant time.
According to her, “the pace of penetration of awareness seems slow because the practice is an ancient one, deeply rooted in our various cultures but that does not make our efforts fruitless. Though progress may be slow, we are going somewhere as rural women, mothers and young girls, are becoming aware of the severe health implications of the barbaric practice.
Lauding the positive impacts of the awareness campaign done few years back, she did acknowledged that information is spreading fast and most women both educated and rural women have started seeing reasons to jettison the age-longed practice.
It was on this note she implored government at all levels to fight the practice with direct legislations, in the manner they are doing with some wicked anti-female practices.