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Nigeria: Fighting Female Genital Mutilation

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By Timothy Akintola

Steps are being taken to sensitize the people on the hazards of FGM.

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is a traditional procedure that overtly violates the sexual rights of the female gender. It is a culturally-motivated practice that involves removing the external part of the female genitalia for arbitrary reasons with no health benefit. An archaic practice, it is known to inflict injuries to the female genital organ. Statistically, over 200 million females are estimated to have undergone the FGM procedures in 31 countries, 80 percent of these victims said to be in Africa.

Contextually, Nigeria has the third highest FGM victimization, with over 25 percent of Nigerian women and girls with ages ranging between 15 to 49, haven experienced a form of genital mutilation. Though, Nigeria’s Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act declares it illegal, this cultural process is still habitually practiced across the country. Several governmental and non-government platforms are lending their voices to educate people about the dangers of this practice, one of which is the Center for Social Values and Early Childhood Development (CESVED), a non-profit organization overseen by Gift and Abu Augustine.

It is important to sensitize people on the perils of female circumcision.

Numerous organizations are actively working towards eradicating this practice in the different parts of Nigeria— making material and educational provisions to sensitize the people of these affected communities of the need to evolve from this archaic practice that is posed to harm women. The Value Female Network educate communities in Osun State, providing necessary materials to victims of female genital mutilation and other gender-based violence. Society for the Improvement of Rural People also base their sensitization program around communities in Ebonyi and Enugu states, in a bid to exterminate this gender-based violence.

Gift and Abu Augustine in 2011, commenced an anti-FMG organization in Cross-River state, to create awareness about the dangers that the genital mutilation practice poses, prompting the cultural leaders to end this practice. Also, Mabel Inah, a health worker at the Agwagune primary health center has taken it upon herself to educate pregnant women and nursing mothers of the perils associated with these genital mutilations. Inah, avers that it is very important that we take necessary steps as a society to sensitize ignorant people of the perils that female circumcision poses.

Gift recognizes factors that have clogged this sensitization process.

Gift and Abu’s anti-FGM activism was heralded by Gift’s discovery of FMG-related scars on women, while as a nurse of a public hospital in Keffi, Nasarawa State. She observed the different and severe complications that women suffer at childbirth which sometimes led to death, as a result of these genital mutilation procedures. She asserted that upon her research on this subject, she started to talk about the practice which have long become trivialized. CESVED, founded by Gift and Augustine, organizes campaigns across communities in Cross-River, in a bid to change their perception of the subject.

Although, there has been successful steps forward in some communities, Gift recognizes that there are factors that have clogged this sensitization process. The cultural preservation of this practice in numerous communities stands as a real problem. The non-profit organization has witnessed the problem of some communities still holding on to this cultural practice. Gift asserts that the Culture construct of many communities are still weaved around this practice, where families are denied privileges and leadership positions for refusing to let their daughters be circumcised. She further noted the cases of physical assault that the team have been victims to, in the course of their sensitization.

VAPP ACT must be domesticated and properly implemented to eradicate FGM.

However, the Nigerian government, through FGM policies, have also been immensely helpful in eradicating this act that evidently violates Human Rights. Through the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act (VAPP. ACT) in 2015, the government criminalized this practice and though Cross River State adopted this law in 2021, there have been no convictions which shows the government’s complacency at eradicating this vile practice. However, while this VAPP ACT have been assented in 29 states in Nigeria, Gift, avers that the states must domesticate this act, ensuring that it is properly implemented to curb gender-based violence in Nigeria.


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