Photo: (L-r ), Mrs. Babatunde Sadia,Chief Isaiah Faromi and his wife Christiana, local female Circumcisers in Osun State that have pledged to abandon the practice of Female Genital Mutilation
Female Genital Mutilation and Cutting(FGMC) is a cultural practice in Nigeria that has been on for decades. Since its existence for so many years , no single good has come out of it neither has it resulted into anything good for the communities that practice it .
This harmful and deadly practice instead, has left so many devastating health effects on the lives of its victims-women and girls who are erroneously mutilated all in the name of preventing them from being promiscuous.
All survivors of this practice, have one sad story or the other to tell as it affects their reproductive health , ranging from excessive bleeding, infections such as HIV, painful sex , obstructed labour which often lead to both the death of the baby and the mother , trauma among others.
FGMC is considered an extremely harmful traditional practice, documented in 28 countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. It comprises all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. Little is known about the origin of the practice, which predates contemporary world religions. It is widely practiced in Nigeria, where an estimated 19.9 million Nigerian women have undergone the procedure.
But the truth of the matter is that, scientific evidences are bound that it does not add any value to the lives of women and girls neither does it prevent promiscuity which many taught it prevents.
So far, no single study has come out with a specific benefit of this primitive practice that some communities in the Western and Eastern parts of the country are still holding on to till today.
Unfortunately, this evil practice is mostly carried out when the girls are under one year.
According to the National Demographic Health Survey 2013, 25% of women in Nigeria have undergone FGMC, although the practice is slowly declining. Among the myths that still perpetuate the practice are ideas that FGMC prevents young women from becoming promiscuous or that it is beneficial for the health of her children. In fact, it exposes girls and women to severe and sometimes life-threatening health complications, including hemorrhage, tetanus, sepsis, urine retention, sexual dysfunction and infertility; women who have undergone FGM/C are twice as likely to die during childbirth, and their babies are more likely to during or just after birth.
But why has some communities in Nigeria not jettisoned the barbaric practice despite various local and international research findings about its negative health consequences on the life of survivors?
A field trip by some journalists to IIe Ife Community in Ife Local Government Area of Osun State during a Two-Day Media Dialogue on FGMC in Osogbo, the state capital recently, sponsored by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF ) in collaboration with the United Nations Population Fund(UNFPA) and the Child Rights Information Bureau (CRIB) of the Federal Ministry of Information, clearly revealed some of the erroneous reasons for the practice as explained by some age-long local circumcisers.
The media dialogue which seeks an end to FGMC practice, highlights the need for sustained communication with communities and collaboration with the media to promote the social change needed for FGMC abandonment.
It was also aimed at supporting high-level FGMC abandonment national response launched last week Tuesday by wife of the President, Mrs. Aisha Buhari.
Some erroneous reasons for FGMC Practice in Osun State
Osun State in South-West Nigeria has 77 per cent prevalence rate of FGMC practice. The state is among the six high-prevalence states with FGMC practice in the country. The rest are Ebonyi, Ekiti, Imo, Oyo and Lagos states.
One of the local circumcisers and head of circumcisers in Ife community, Chief Isaiah Fayomi who has been in the business of both male circumcision and female mutilation for over 60years in the company of his wife, Christiana, said, the main reason for the practice was to prevent promiscuity and waywardness among their female children.
Chief Fayomi, 83,born into the family of circumcisers said:“ I do my work professionally. Mothers bring their female children to me for circumcision in my house and some times, they invite me to their homes.
Some times, I travelled out of Ife community to go and circumcise women and girls including pregnant women. I also repair the ones that are badly circumcised. I charge between N500-N1000 for children and N5000 for adult.
Just as I have said before, we belief in Osun State that FGMC reduces the woman’s chances of running after men.”
However, Chief Fayomi popularly called Baba, said he had stopped the practice seven years ago following UNICEF ‘s intervention and sensitization in Ife community on the dangers of the practice on the lives of women and girls.
Another circumciser, Mrs. Sadia Babatunde shared similar views with baba.
“ It is right to circumcise a girl to avoid scratching her genitalia and to avoid promiscuity”, she said.
Again, she said the practice is carried out to make the virgina clean.
She explained: “There is an organism that I find inside the clitoris whenever I circumcise a girl. So, the practice makes our girls clean and less promiscuous.“
Giving further insight into the practice , a mother of five(two boys and three girls) from the state popularly called Iya Basira, said the reason for cutting her girls was to prevent them from going after men when they grow up.
“ Those of us from Osun State, we circumcise our girls. It is a culture we met on ground. My mother circumcised me and also helped me to get my three girls circumcised so that they don’t go about looking for men when they become adult . We believe that the practice will help our girls not to be promiscuous and also help them in preserving their virginity till they get married.”
Iya Basira went:“My mother told me that if the clitoris of a girl was not cut, when she grows up into adulthood, the clitoris will be scratching her. And once it starts scratching her, she will begin to thirst for sex and I don’t want that to happen to my children, that is why I have to circumcise them including this my last girl that is eight months old.”
But UNICEF ‘s Child Protection Specialist, Maryam Enyiazu, countered their claims, describing them as baseless and unfounded.
Giving an overview of FGMC practice in Nigeria and its impact, Enyiazu noted: “We have a lot of documented evidence that show that, there is no added value in getting female children mutilated.”
“To start with, it is an infringement on their fundamental human rights and we have documented evidence of the health implications of FGMC. The immediate and the long term effects of FGM/C are many. Some of the short term effects of FGMC include; excessive bleeding, infections that can lead to complicated labour latter on in life. And in some cases , it leads to HIV infections because this practice is carried out in a very unhygienic condition using unsterilized equipment .Again, as a result of excessive bleeding because is not done under any form of anesthesia , this practice can lead to death”, she explained.
In her presentation entitled; “Practice and experience of FGMC in Nigeria”, National President of Inter-Africa Committee on FGM, Prof. Modupe Onadeko, who vehemently kicked against the practice, pointed out that mutilation gives rise to maternal and infant mortality.
“ We can’t continue to be losing women like that because they can contribute a lot to socioeconomic development”, she said.
According to Onadeko, who is also Community Health Physician and Consultant Reproductive/Family Health University College Hospital, Ibadan, harmful traditional practices such as FGMC must not be tolerated as it often result in premature death of girls and women, as well as leave many physically, medically, psychologically/emotionally damaged for life.
Insisting that no girl or woman should ever be subjected to FGMC because it has no single benefit.
There are four types of FGMC according to the Professor of Family Health.
Type 1- is the removal of the hood of the clitoris
Type 2- is the removal of the whole clitoris as well as part of the small lip of the vagina
Type 3- is the total excision of the whole female genitalia and suturing of the vagina. This is also called Infibulation.
Type 4- anything done to the vagina that cannot be assigned to the categories above is put under this category.
In an effort to end FGMC practice, Mrs. Aisha Buhari, last week launched a national response to eliminate the practice in Nigeria within a generation. The launch was in collaboration between the Federal Government of Nigeria and the Joint UNFPA/UNICEF Programme on FGM/C Abandonment, in partnership with several civil society organizations.
She urged wives of the state Governors, particularly those from states where this harmful practice is rampant, to be the voice of the campaign to end FGM/C in their various States.
“We are mothers and women and have the primary role to use our privileged positions to make lives better for Nigerians, especially women and girls. I urge you to be vocal on the need for FGM/C to end in Nigeria and take action that will enable this to happen,” she added.
With the launch of the national response by wife of the President , Let’s all kick against FGMC practice while government should as a matter of urgency make its elimination a priority.
Hence, all stakeholders including the media should make legislation against the practice of FGMC more popular in the affected states and communities in addition to aggressive and sustain media campaign against the practice.