Many years after the campaign against Female Genital Mutilation, FGM, was launched, there is no sign people will leave the practice anytime soon.
It is still a common practice in Nigeria, especially among the Yoruba tribe.
In a recent encounter, an Ilesha-based woman who is simply referred to as Mrs Bada confirmed that the family still circumcise their female children.
She added that at the Ijaregbe, Ilesha, Osun State family compound, “it is the tradition and customs for the female children to be circumcised as from the age of 10 years,” adding that “It is an abomination for anyone from the family to either ignore the practice or marry someone who is not circumcised.
His brother, who is the head of the family, was not indifferent as he said it is a practice they inherited from their forefathers.
FGM is a societal malaise militating against female folks, an act that is rooted especially in African traditions. The practice is documented in 28 countries in Africa, Asia and Middle East and among these countries. The prevalence rate in Nigeria, according to the National Demographic Health Survey 2013, is 24%.
According to The Sun, “it is a cultural practice from time immemorial and the reason for practicing it is borne out of the beliefs that unless it is done, a woman is seen as incomplete. It is also seen as a means of preserving a girls virginity which is believed to increase a girl’s chances of being solicited for marriage.”
Quoting Waris Dirie, “female genital mutilation targets little girls, baby girls- fragile angels who are helpless, who cannot fight back. It’s a crime against a child, a crime against humanity. It’s absolutely criminal and we have to stop it”
Various campaigners, who have risen against the act, have described it as “evil”.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) describes Female Genital Mutilation (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-therapeutic reasons.
FGM has sex and other negative consequences.
Effects of FGM ranges from complications at birth, infections, excessive bleeding, delayed or incomplete healing. And once many traditional circumcisers do not use anaesthetics on their patients, there is possibility of damage to adjacent organs like urinary tract, infections, cysts and even death.
Anti-FGM activists also believe that the practice has no clinical medical benefits but are not effective in stopping FGM as the laws in place cannot be enforced without the police because of corruption; the law enforcement agents in Nigeria are largely corrupt. The law was signed by former President Goodluck Jonathan but the law enforcement agents continuously failed to enforce it as the practice continued secretly.
However, violators still practice this act secretly. This prompted The Sun reporter, Taiwo Oluwadamilare, to embark on an investigation sponsored by International Centre for Investigative Reporting in partnership with Ford Foundation. At the heart of the investigation, is how the practice affect women; the present prevalence rate and the secret practice in spite of the prohibition law.
Preliminary investigations reveal that Southwest Nigeria recorded the highest rate of Female Genital Mutilation in the country. This is in spite of the geo-political zone’s high literacy. Asides that, various religious organizations have condemned the act, however the practice continued unabated.
According to the NDHS, the female genital mutilation prevalence rate in the South West is the highest in the country. Although little progress has been made from a prevalence rate of about 57 per cent in 2003 to 48 per cent in 2013.
The practice is based on myths and religion passed down for many generations. Some communities believe that the clitoris contains powers strong enough to cause harm to a man’s reproductive organ or to damage or kill a baby during childbirth. This is a firm traditional belief in Osun State that keeps going on secretly among these people.
Genital mutilation has assumed a frightening and worrisome dimension in Ekiti, Osun, Oyo and Lagos where this investigation covered. Findings show that until recently, rural, illiterate and unenlightened old men and women have remained in the cultural habit of mutilating the virginal part of female babies, and they have their reasons. Chief among those reasons is to prevent young women from becoming promiscuous as they assume teenage age.
Unbelievably, the practice has gradually crept into the medical profession as you now have a situation whereby nurses, mostly auxiliary nurses who work with certified medical doctors in both public and private hospitals surreptitiously help parents “tame” the private part of both male and female children days after their birth. In Ise Ekiti, Daily Sun reporter met with a lady named Tosin at a palm wine joint. She revealed how female circumcision is done in her hospital. She however refused to divulge the name of the hospital.
In some communities in the four Southwestern states, female genitals of uncircumcised women are considered ugly, unclean and unattractive.