February 6 every year marks the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation, FGM.
It is a day set aside by nations and world bodies to protest the ongoing practice of female genital mutilation with the aim of discouraging the weird and dreaded practice.
Observing the unforgettable day comes with different topics and themes. FMG, the world over has been condemned despite the practice is still persistent in most countries, Nigeria inclusive.
As the acronym FGM suggest, it is an act involving the cutting of part or the whole of a female’s clitoris and some other parts of her sex organ
The World Health Organisation, WHO, defines FGM as all procedures, which involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia and/or injury to the female genital organs, whether for cultural or any other non-medical reasons. Even as the practice has come under serious condemnation from the world body, and UNICEF, UNFPA, as well governments and sundry bodies, regrettably, it still lingers on as societies cling unto it as if it is the lifeline of their cultures.
However, as the world marked the 2016 FGM, early in the month, the United Nations Population Fund, UNFPA, Nigeria, and the sister body of the world organisation , United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF in a statement by their Executive Directors Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin and Anthony Lake, respectively condemned FGM. They described it as a violent practice which scares the victims for life, endanger their health, deprive them of their rights, as well as deny them the chance to reach their full potentials.
According to the two bodies, medically, FGM is associated with health complications such as HIV/AIDS infection, hepatitis, heavy bleeding, severe pains and complication during childbirth and as such should be condemned and discouraged forthwith.
Their condemnation notwithstanding, in Nigeria, and other countries where this practice persists, the females are subjected to obscure traditional practices. According to the beliefs, FGM makes their females more feminine and more attractive to men, in addition to other dogma that it enhances their cleanliness, social acceptance, better marriage prospects, and preservation of virginity and prevention of premarital sex.
Other reasons canvassed by these beliefs are that FMG further swells the social status for the family of the girl elicits a higher dowry when the daughter gets married.
The WHO has described FGM as an unhealthy traditional practice inflicted on girls and women and a violation of human rights deeply rooted in cultural beliefs and perceptions, which those still involved are not in a hurry to stop. Scary statistics put as the highest absolute number of female genital mutilation (FGM) worldwide, accounting for about one-quarter of the estimated 130 million with FGM in the world.
FMG is still practiced in six Nigerian states namely, Cross River State, Edo State, Imo, among the Yorubas in South-West, Igbos, Ibibios, Ekois, Ijaws in the South-South and South-East region and the Fulani and Hausa in the northern region of the country.
According to UNFPA report in Nigeria, FGM has the highest prevalence in the South-South 77 per cent among adult women, followed by the South-East 68 per cent and South-West 65 per cent, but practiced on a smaller scale in the North, paradoxically tending to a more extreme form. The use of modern medical equipment for the practice has become one of the threats to eliminating the practice in Nigeria.
With a population of over 150 million people and women accounting for 52 per cent, the national prevalence rate of FGM according to experts is 41 per cent among adult women. Prevalence rates progressively decline in the young age groups and 37 per cent of circumcised women condemn the practice and do not want it to continue.
Intriguingly, FGM is equally practiced in more than 28 countries in Africa and a few scattered communities in Egypt, Mali, Eritrea, Sudan, Central African Republic, and northern part of Ghana where it has been an old traditional and cultural practice of various ethnic groups. The highest prevalence rates are found in Somalia and Djibouti where FGM is virtually universal. From available statistics corroborated by Wikipedia, FGM is practiced in 30 countries in western, eastern, and north-eastern Africa, in parts of the Middle East and Asia, and within some immigrant communities in Europe, North America and Australia. Going by a 2013 UNICEF report on 29 countries in Africa and the Middle East, Egypt has the region’s highest total number with 27.2 million women having undergone FGM, while Somalia has the highest prevalence rate of FGM at 98 per cent.
But with the September UN Sustainable Development Summit, where 193 states unanimously agreed to a new global target of eliminating FGM by 2030 with the recognition that it is a global concern to protect the well-being and dignity of every girl, the time is now for Nigeria to join the submission of ending FGM. We join in this crusade and urge cultures and states in the country still indulging in this outdated practice to end FMG now.