By Ikenna Osuoha
According to UNICEF female genital mutilation (FGM) refers to all procedures involving partial or total removal of the female external genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.
Over the years it has been practiced in many of Nigeria communities, especially the South East, South-South and South West.
Critics of the practice say that it is embedded in ignorance and misrepresentation of culture.
Ms Karima Bungudu, Gender/FGM Analyst, UN Population Fund (UNFPA) says the practice constitutes human rights violation.
She described it as the height of gender inequality occasioned by conspicuous discrimination against the female gender.
The UNFPA FGM Analyst wondered why women could be singled out for such harmful practice thereby stifling their potential to live life to the fullest.
“FGM is an infringement on the girl’s right to health hence its health complications can retard the girls vision and dreams for greater future.
“It is a violation of the girl’s or woman’s human rights to choices and self-preservation,” she said at training for media professionals on FGM.
Bungudu said it was unfortunate that `the cruel practice by social, cultural and gender inequitable norms and belief`, had been normalised.
She said the risk and complications increase with the type of FGM and may likely be more severe and prevalent with infibulations.
Experts say infibulation involves the narrowing of the vaginal opening through the creation of a covering seal.
According to them the seal is formed by cutting and repositioning the labia minora, or labia majora, sometimes through stitching.
Bungudu said: “Type 1: Also known as clitoridectomy, consists of partial or total removal of the external part of the clitoris and/or its prepuce (clitoral hood).
“Type 2: Also known as excision, the external part of clitoris and labia minora are partially or totally removed, with or without excision of the labia majora.
“Type 3: It is also known as infibulation or pharaonic type. The procedure consists of narrowing the vaginal orifice with creation of a covering seal by cutting the labia minora and/or labia majora, with or without removal of the external part of clitoris.
“The appositioning of the wound edges consists of stitching or holding the cut areas together for a certain period of time (for example, girls’ legs are bound together), to create the covering seal.
“A small opening is left for urine and menstrual blood to escape.
“Type 4: This type consists of all other procedures to the genitalia of women for non-medical purposes, such as pricking, piercing, incising, scraping and cauterisation,” she said.
Gender advocates say the practice has remained because those who carry them out had not been penialised by the authorities and call for the implementation of relevant laws to end the practice.
UNFPA report says that about 14.8 million girls and women are at the risk of being cut in future with 19.9 million girls in Nigeria having gone through the practice already.
It is estimated that some 200 million girls and women globally have undergone some form of female genital mutilation.
UNFPA estimates that globally, 68 million girls are at risk of being mutilated between 2015 and 2030.
Dr Aliyu Yakubu, Ag. Head, UNFPA Cross Rivers told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that FGM had destroyed not just the lives of women and girls but new born.
Yakubu said FGM poses a lot health hazards for women and girls both during birth and after.
He said that it could lead to fatalities during birth as result of the tightness of the birth canal which could have been stitched during FGM.
“During birth, the scar tissue might tear, or the opening needs to be cut to allow the baby to come out”, he said.
Mrs Aduke Obelawo, Anti-FGM Advocate told NAN that the practice is a crime against humanity especially the women and the girls.
“After childbirth, women from some ethnic communities are often sown up again to make them “tight” for their husband.
“Such cutting and stitching of a woman’s genitalia results in painful scar tissue”, she told NAN.
Dr Juliet Ofo of Federal Medical Centre (FMC) Jabi said that FGM could result in death through severe bleeding and neurogenic shock as a result of pain and trauma.
Ofo said the harmful practice has the propensity of triggering overwhelming infection and septicaemia.
Ms Ayo Bello, Head, Global Media Campaign to End FGM told NAN there was the need for synergy among media professionals to amplify the advocacy to end FGM.
Bello tasked the media to educate the public about the need to end FGM by exposing its hazards and consequences.
Bello expressed hope in the power of the media to end FGM by holding government accountable.
She called for social activism using the media as a platform to change the narrative of normalisation of FGM.
Mr Franklin Ihemefor of African Episcopal Methodist Zion Church (AEMZC) affirmed the position of some clerics that FGM had no link to Christian religion.
Ihemefor told NAN that it instead reinforces obnoxious cultural practices targeted at women and girls.
Dr Zubaida Abubakar, Gender/GBV Specialist, UNFPA also told NAN that the pain inflicted by FGM often continue as ongoing torture throughout a woman’s life.
Abubakar said with the cutting women experience various long-term effects, such as physical, sexual and psychological.
She called for coordinated and systematic efforts to end female genital mutilation, engaging whole communities and focussing on human rights and gender equality.
Abubakar who said the procedure is most often carried out on young girls between infancy and age 15, added that it is a violation of girls’ and women’s fundamental human rights.
As the society battles FGM overcoming the challenges depends largely on smooth partnership among stakeholders, including religious groups such as development partners, health workers, civil society and the media.