The United Nations has again called on government at all levels, civil society organisations, as well as traditional and religious leaders to join together and end the scourge of Female Genital Mutilation and Cutting in Nigeria.
This was the theme of two separate statements issued on Monday by the Representative of the United Nations Children Fund, UNICEF, in Nigeria, Mohamed Fall, and the Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund, UNFPA, Babatunde Osotimehin, to mark the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation and Cutting, FGM/C.
Fall in his statement noted that every study conducted on the issue of FGM/C shows that that there is “absolutely no benefit to mutilate or to cut any girl or woman for non-medical reasons. It is a practice that can cause severe physical and psychological harm.”
He quoted the 2013 National Demographic and Health Survey, which revealed that Osun State, ranks highest in the rate of female children who had undergone genital mutilation, also referred to as “female circumcision”, with 77% victims; closely followed closely by Ebonyi State with 74%.
Others include: Ekiti – 72 per cent; Imo – 68 per cent and Oyo – 66 per cent.
The UNICEF representative explained that FGM/C comprises all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other cutting of or injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.
Fall stressed that the act is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women.
“It violates a woman’s rights to health, security and physical integrity, the right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and even – in some cases – the right to life,” he said.
Recall that the wife of President Muhammadu Buhari, Aisha, had floated a national campaign to end FGM/C, calling on all parties to work together to halt this harmful practice.
“We applaud the progress that has been made in Nigeria, but there is still a long way to go,” said the UNICEF chief.
“Even though this practice has persisted for over a thousand years, our evidence tells us that with collective action, it can end in one generation,’ he added.
He noted that “UNICEF is working with Federal and State governments, especially in the southern states where the practice is most prevalent, training partners, creating awareness at all levels and working with communities to convince practitioners and community members to promote an end to the practice.
Similarly, UNFPA Executive Director, Babatunde Osotimehin, in a statement noted that FGM/C does “irreparable damages” to girls’ bodies.
Aside inflicting excruciating pain, “it causes extreme emotional trauma that can last a lifetime” as well as “increases the risk of deadly complications during pregnancy, labour and childbirth, endangering both mother and child.”
Osotimehin stated that “despite all the progress we have made toward abolishing this violent practice, millions of girls – many of them under the age of 15 – will be forced to undergo it this year alone.”
“Sadly, they will join the almost 200 million girls and women around the world who are already living with the damage FGM/C causes – and whose communities are already affected by its impact,” he said.
The UNFPA director acknowledged that appreciable progress was made in the fight against FGM/C in 2016 as “more than 2,900 communities, representing more than 8.4 million people living in countries where UNFPA and UNICEF work jointly to end FGM/C, declared they had abandoned the practice.”
He added however that “in 2017, we must demand faster action to build on this progress. That means calling on governments to enact and enforce laws and policies that protect the rights of girls and women and prevent FGM/C.”
“Let us make this the generation that abolishes FGM/C once and for all – and in doing so, help create a healthier, better world for all,” he said.