From Emmanuel Uzor, Abakaliki
It is no longer news that the prevalence of genital mutilation and other harmful practices against the girl child are no longer fashionable.
Over the years, the advocacy and campaigns against the harmful practice seemed to have fallen on deaf ears in most of the states across the country with Osun and Ebonyi states taking very noticeable lead amongst states still holding on to the harmful practice.
Indeed, the cutting of the genitalia of a new born female child has been traced to the local or traditional birth attendants in remote villages.
Before the advent of civilization, the cry against female genital mutilation was not heard unlike now there are eloquent calls to end the practice.
But despite the calls and campaigns against the harmful practice, some Traditional Birth Attendants (TBA) in Ebonyi State before now, especially in the rural areas, had remained adamant, making the state one of the states with the highest cases of FGM until the wife of the state governor, Mrs Rachael Umahi, declared war on them.
However, before the declaration of state of emergency on female genital mutilation by the wife of the state governor, it had been a serious warfare between relevant authorities to discourage both the traditional birth attendants and the parents of the female children to heed to the advice against FGM.
Oriental News gathered that the efforts seemed to have finally paid off when traditional birth attendants across the state made open confessions and dropped their blades with which they cut the genitals of female children and embraced the call against FGM.
The traditional birth attendants who have been practicing female genital mutilation/cutting in a special workshop organized by the National Orientation Agency (NOA) in collaboration with the office of the wife of the state governor made U-turn on the practice and joined the crusade against inhuman act.
Speaking during the flag-off of campaign against female genital mutilation, Mrs Umahi described the act as not only against God, but against humanity, the innocence of young female children and the abuse of trust.
Mrs Umahi maintained that the practice has been identified as having serious health implications on the girl child/woman and also serving as a major obstacle to the attainment of the global declaration of ‘Health for All’ and most importantly, inhibiting the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (especially Goals 3, 4, & 5) which focus on the health and well-being of the girl child and women.
While classifying female genital mutilation/cutting, FGM/C into Clitoridectomy, Excision, Infibulation and others, she enumerated the reasons people engage in the act to include reduction of sexual desire in females thus curtailing promiscuity, promoting virginity before marriage, ensuring husband’s sexual pleasure, promoting social integration and initiation of girls into womanhood, and dismissed them as being parochial and unscientific.
He, therefore, called on all stakeholders, especially the traditional birth attendants to say no to the practice, insisting that the “elimination of Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting is crucial to the attainment of both national and international health and development goals. It will also contribute to the attainment of national level policies, promote gender equality, reduce infant mortality rate, improve maternal health and combat HIV/AIDS in Nigeria”.
Addressing the participants, the Director, National Orientation Agency, Ebonyi State, Dr Emma Abah, explained that Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting was a longstanding cultural practice in the African region, especially Nigeria, which refers to all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs whether for cultural, religious or other non-therapeutic reasons.
He revealed that FGM was a violation of the rights of women and girls, including their rights to health, security and physical integrity, as well as a major cause of psychological and social problems and read out the consequences to include severe pain, excessive bleeding, shock, hepatitis, HIV/AIDS, Vesico Vaginal Fistulae (VVF), Retro Vaginal Fistulae (RVF), PID, UTI, painful menstruation, scarring and keloid formation, painful and obstructed labour, sexual dysfunction, as well as psycho-social and emotional problems.
The traditional birth attendants represented by Mrs Gloria Okorie from Ivo, Mrs Beatrice Nweda from Izzi and Mrs Grace Nwokpo from Ebonyi local government areas of the state declared they would no longer venture into the act again and regretted practicing it for a long time, which they confessed had brought so many problems to the female children in their localities.
Mrs Gloria Okorie said no girl was complete after undergoing the female genital mutilation, adding that the harmful practice which they indulged in due to lack of civilization had brought untold hardship to female children who went through the pains of their blade.
“I thought I was doing female children good when I was cutting their female organ after birth. I thought doing that will make them complete and bear children when they grow up. I also thought that any female child that is circumcised will be jumping from one man to another but I have come to realize that all these beliefs are false.
“I have been telling people that I no longer do it. Even people are still coming to me to circumcise their female children and I use to tell them no, I don’t do it anymore. And if I see anyone doing it, I will personally report the person to the police,” she said.
The state Commissioner of Police, Peace Ibekwe Abdallah, who was represented by Mrs Ngozi Vitalis, the Ebonyi Divisional Police Officer (DPO) warned that the police would henceforth arrest anyone found practicing the act.
She warned that no form of alteration should be made on the genitalia of any female child in the state, insisting that any alteration whatsoever amounts to mutilation or cutting and promised to deal decisively with anyone found perpetrating the act.
In her remarks, the Chairperson, Children Protection Network Ebonyi State, Mrs Flora Egwu, reeled out the horrible experiences she had with VVF and FGM/C victims in the past, saying that it was a dangerous and life-threatening act that causes unspeakable pain and suffering to the girl child.
She, therefore, called for a collective decision by the people to abandon the practice, adding that such would ensure that no single girl or family would be disadvantaged.
Oriental News gathered that Ebonyi State has the highest prevalence rate of Female Genital Mutilation above the regional average at 62 per cent in the South East geo-political zone while Ivo, Izzi, Afikpo North, Abakaliki, Ezza North and Ebonyi local government areas occupy the top chart of council areas where female genital mutilation is practiced.