By Sunmola Olowookere
On February 6 of every year, countries of the world marked International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation which is commonly known as female circmcision.
As the global village marked the day with various awareness programmes and seminars, think tanks have began to brainstorm on whether the Nigerian nation has been able to stamp out the trend not only in urban areas but even down to its rural communities.
Following a wave of awareness which swept through the globe some decades ago, communities in Nigeria have been asked to stop female genital mutilation, FGM, in view of its long lasting harmful effects on the children which may linger for a lifetime.
These include inflicting avoidable mental, psychological and physical pains on the victims, excessive bleeding (hemorrhage), life threatening infectious diseases like Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI), tetanus and HIV, among several others.
Specifically, the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF has through different fora stressed the need especially for rural communities to do away with the harmful practice saying it has no health benefit, but has more harmful effects for the girl child.
The practice amounts to infliction of avoidable pains on the victims. However, some families are still fixed on the practice. Some even circumcize grown women. Due to the fear of the supernatural that has been instilled into them, they found it hard to kick against in spite of the realisation of the pain involved in the act.
Other harmful effects of the practice are painful menstruation, phobia for sex, neurosis, keloid and cyst formation, lack of confidence and feeling of inadequacy in sexual relationship, prolonged labour leading to obstruction, increased infant mortality and morbidity which could also result in death.
In actual fact, most rural communities still engage in the practice although it is shrouded in secrecy for fear of arrest or public censure.
To this end, some states in the nation have Inaugurated committees at their local government level that would go into all the towns and farm steads in their council area to propagate the campaign.
There is the need for vigorous enlightenment and mobilization campaign on the need to eradicate the practice of FGM in all the communities, and the local government areas.
for several years now, the UNICEF, UNFPA and other World agencies have mounted vigorous enlightenment and mobilization campaign on the need to eradicate the practice of FGM in our communities.
“In some states, the local government areas and its local communities are the areas with high prevalence of the practices.
To stop this trend, intwenational donor agencies with their focus on the rights of the girl child have supported the Federal and State governments and NGOs to mount mobilization and enlightenment campaigns on the effects of FGM on the health of the girl child and women in our society.
During this year’s celebration, the United Nations Children Fund(UNICEF) came out with a dire warning that 68million girls would be subjected to the Female Genital Mutilation , FGM, by 2030, unless the action to end it is accelerated now.
According to UNICEF, FGM has no health benefits and often leads to long-term medical complications, including severe pain, prolonged bleeding, infection, infertility and even death.
It added that the practice can also lead to increased risk of HIV transmission, and that women who have undergone genital mutilation can experience complications during childbirth, including postpartum haemorrhage, stillbirth and early neonatal death.
FGM was also described as a violation of girls’ and women’s fundamental human rights, noting that a large number of women from 30 countries have been subjected to the practice.
UNICEF however lamented that, despite the efforts to discourage the FGM, qualified medical practitioners now play a significant role in performing it.
“More than 20 million women and girls in just seven countries (Egypt, Sudan, Guinea, Djibouti, Kenya, Yemen and Nigeria) have undergone female genital mutilation by a health care provider.
“Medicalizing the practice does not make it safer, as it still removes and damages healthy and normal tissue and interferes with the natural functions of girls’ and women’s bodies.
“In many communities, the practice has been driven underground rather than ended, leading to girls being subjected to cutting at younger ages amidst greater secrecy,“ says UNICEF.
Highlighting its efforts so far to eradicate the practice in Africa, UNICEF noted that since its joint programme with UNFPA in 2008, 13 countries have passed national legislation banning FGM.
It states that the joint programme also provided access to prevention, protection and treatment services for more than 3.3 million girls and women.
As a result of a community-led engagement, it boasted that more than 34.6 million people in over 21,700 communities made public declarations against FGM.
“Over the past three decades, there has been an overall decline in the prevalence in female genital mutilation – and momentum is growing. With our continued action, we can work together to end FGM by 2030”, it says.
To end the practice, UNICEF therefore calls for protection and care services for girls and women, laws, and political commitment at the local, regional, national and international levels.
In some parts of Nigeria, it has been discovered that the horrific practice of female genital mutilation is still being practiced. If the wife refused, the mother in law and the husband especially the ones still hooked on this practice would take the baby girl to be circumcized. This, they believed, would make her not to be promiscuos.
This is more reinforced by the fact that we still have a fix with the past. Despite our level of civilization in Nigeria, our cultural practices which are passed from generation to generation continue to have a stronghold on our relationships and our very existence.
Some of the towns and settlements in Africa at large and in Nigeria in particular are still tied to the past as they believed that whatever happened to them is tied to their cultural belief. Nothing to the African happen perchance. Something somewhere is probably responsible for it, an average African would reason.
A civil servant, Mrs Elizabeth Oyewole told The Hope that all three daughters were taken for circumcision by her Mother in law who insisted that they must be circumcised in order to forestall evil happening in the family while accusing her of being selfish as her mother did circumcision for her.
She stated that the elderly woman claimed that if a woman is uncircumcised, any child she gives birth to will die at birth because it was a taboo for a baby’s head to touch the mother’s clitoris.
Oyewole said though she initially refused, she had to cave in as her husband too insisted on the exercise being carried out on their daughter.
She claimed that this nearly rocked her young marriage as she felt that her husband should have supported her. She admitted that in the following ones done for the two subsequent girls she gave birth to, she simply went along with the flow.
The question then is; what do they do about the males then? Why just women? The obvious answer to the question is an issue for another day.
Female genital mutilation is a very painful and unnecessary process and in some cases, scar the children involved emotionally and physically.
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