Oyo, Ekiti intensify war against genital mutilation
From Wole Balogun, Ado-Ekiti & Taiwo Oluwadare, Ibadan
The robust advocacy against the practice of female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) by governments and non-governmental organisations (NGO) is fast spreading across the South West Zone. Ekiti and Oyo states joined in the campaign last week against the menace that is still being perpetrated in many parts of Africa.
Cultural, religious and environmental factors which include superstitious beliefs, norms and efforts geared towards preventing unchecked sexual activities by the female folk among others have been found to be responsible for the continued practice of FGM/C by many educated and uneducated, rural and urban people of this part of the world.
According to the National Demographic Health Survey (NDHS) findings in 2013, people still consider the FGM/C important for socialization of women, curbing their sexual appetites and preparing them for marriage.
Dr. Bassey Imona said findings by the NDHS further showed that in some parts of rural Nigeria and Africa, FGM/C is “considered part of a ritual initiation into womanhood which includes a period of seclusion and education about the rights and duties of a wife.”
However, despite its cultural importance, FGM/C has drawn considerable criticism because of the potential for both short and long-term medical complications, as well as harm to reproductive health and infringement on women’s rights.
A recent finding by UNICEF revealed: “Women whose clitoris have been severed would have very slow pace of sexual arousal and hardly get satisfaction during sexual activity such that such women take to sleeping with as many men as possible in search of more sexual satisfaction.”
Chairman, Committee on Women Affairs, Social Development and Gender Equity, Ekiti State House of Assembly, Mrs. Titilayo Owolabi Akerele added: “Where the girls are inexperienced or do not use proper contraceptives with the men they sleep with, they have unwanted pregnancies at such tender ages of 14, 15 and 17.” She said government was making efforts to enforce laws protecting women’s rights and sensitize women about their rights and against the practice of FGM/C.
Sadly, in Ekiti FGM/C is still widely practiced. Many mothers still take their female children to quack doctors, half-educated nurses and traditional birth attendants for FGM/C. They get away from the law by making such consultations secretive.
A mother who craved anonymity confessed to Daily Sun: “To do FGM/C for your baby, you don’t go to public hospitals because the government officers can pick you up from there and clamp you into prison. We know that our forefathers do this thing for girls so as to check their sexual excesses. That is why we secretly go to traditional birth attendants who get their clients through people they trust and people they know would keep the venture secretive.”
It was to further press against the practice of FGM/C the Onelife Initiative in conjunction with the New Generation Girls and Women Development Initiative (NIGAWD) in Ado Ekiti, organized a sensitization campaign in form of contest for the girl child in all the secondary schools in the state. Sixty-one schools participated in the “End Female Genital Mutilation Art Competition.” The competition centered on drawing depicting harmful effects of FGM/C.
Founder of NIGAWD, Abimbola Aladejare, regretted low level of awareness about the genital mutilation among schoolgirls in the state, describing it as a dangerous trend. She expressed optimism that with strong political will, the frightening incidents of teenage pregnancy and prostitution in Ekiti would be tackled:
“This is to break the culture of silent on FGM and to get people talking. Ekiti State has a high rate of teenage pregnancy. So, we decided to target mothers and future parents. We have reached 70,000 girls in Ekiti State.”
The immediate past chairperson of the Federation of International Women Lawyer, Mrs. Rita Ilevbare, advised parents to shun the practice: “Under the law, if you provide or subject yourself to female genital mutilation and you are convicted, you will get two-year jail term or pay N10,000 fine.”
…Campaigners tackle evil of female genital mutilation
She had been living a normal life without circumcision until she became pregnant for the second time and was due for delivery. While she struggled on her due date, community leaders, in South-East, insisted it would be a taboo for their daughter to give birth uncircumcised. But health care officers refused to let that be.
The melee that ensued delayed medical attention to the poor woman. She died in the process. Emmanuel, her five-year-old son then became an orphan as he had lost his father two years ago.
Anti-FGM campaigner, Gift Abu, in whose arms the woman died, recounted that the woman’s late husband had been the one shielding his wife from the razor of the circumcisers who had their chance after he died:
“Emmanuel’s father was protecting his wife from being cut but after he died, the cutters found their chance. They tried to force her to undergo FGM during labour and told me that I was to blame for her death because I told them not to cut her.”
Gift added that since demise of the woman, the community abandoned Emmanuel, having declared him an outcast for being born by an “unclean, uncircumcised” woman. She took Emmanuel and found him a safe home with family friend, Grace, alongside two other girls, Chinwe, seven, and Faith, nine, who had also been rescued from undergoing the FGM procedure.
Gift said, Chinwe and Faith’s mothers refused to have them cut but feared that if the girls stayed with them, they would be snatched and forced to undergo the procedure. This and many other stories show the plight of women and girls in Nigeria who have suffered the ordeal of undergoing the age-long cultural practice of female circumcision.
At a summit recently in Mapo Hall in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, where circumcision practitioners gathered and promised to stop the age-long practice after former President Goodluck Jonathan signed into law, a bill criminalize female circumcision in the country, Gift said some communities in South East force grown up women to undergo female circumcision when they come home for Christmas.
According to her, when this women return to their hometown no matter the number of years they had left home, they will be subjected to pressure to have their clitoris cut. Proponents of circumcision hold that an uncircumcised woman is liable to promiscuity.
Gift who joined her husband, Augustine Abu, in the fight against FGM said, about 80 percent of the girls in these communities are circumcised. She added that whether you are married, or hold an enviable position in the society, as long you are not cut due to your being away from the communities for years and you come during Christmas, you must be cut:
“You don’t have a choice; you must be cut or you are seen like an outcast in the community and your voice will not be heard.”
According to PubMed of the National Library of Medicine: “Nigeria has the highest absolute number of cases of FGM in the world, accounting for about one-quarter of the estimated 115–130 million circumcised women worldwide.
“In Nigeria, FGM has the highest prevalence in the south-south (77%) (among adult women), followed by the south east (68%) and south west (65%), but practiced on a smaller scale in the north, paradoxically tending to in a more extreme form.”
Dr. Comfort Momoh who runs London’s African Well Women’s Clinic at St Thomas’ Hospital, renders support for women who have gone through FGM. She said she treats over 350 women suffering from FGM complications each year despite FGM being illegal since 1985. She added that not fewer than 30,000 young girls are under the risk of the “barbaric” procedure currently in the UK.
According to her, when they come to the clinic, they are so frustrated and upset at what had befallen them: “As a medical practitioner with over 25 years experience, I am aware that a lot of consequences can arise by four types of genital mutilations.
“The first type is clitoridectomy, when the clitoris which is the top part of the private part has been removed completely or halve. Second type is sunna when the clitoris and inner lip is removed which is also known as Labia minora. Third type is infibulation when the clitoris, inner lip and the big lip, labia majora are removed.
“In this situation, the edges are stitched together leaving a tiny opening for the passage of menstrual flow as well as urine. While the fourth type is unclassified forms of FGM which may involve pricking, stretching, cauterization, or inserting herbs into the vagina.
“Women with genital mutilation are exposed to recurrent urinary tract infection, Virginia infections and this can prevent the affected women from getting pregnant because these lead to infertility.” She said other complications include pain during sexual intercourse and during menstrual period, noting that due to use of same scissors or blade, women who have undergone FGM can stand risk of contracting HIV disease: “If the patient has type 3 mutilation, she has to be cut them open again if not, there is no way she can have normal penetration during sexual intercourse.
At the summit in Ibadan, circumcisers agreed to stop the practice, which has been condemned as a violation of the rights of the girl child. Circumcision practitioners present at the event were from Oyo, Osun, Ekiti, Ondo, Ogun and Kwara states. They pledged to discontinue with female circumcision and stick with male circumcision alone.
But it seemed all the circumcisers, under the aegis of Circumcision Descendants Association of Nigeria (CDAN), were not in total agreement as to the stoppage. Even though they admitted that the practice had no significant benefit to the child, they stated that the practice has formed part of their business and source of livelihood, explaining that it is a trade passed down to them.
One of the practitioners wondered what alternative venture the government and campaigners had for them because they cannot afford to limit business to male circumcision alone.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, represented by Dr. Femi Majekodunmi, assured them that they would never be let down for taking a decision to protect and empower the girl child.
The wife of Oyo State Governor, Mrs. Florence Ajimobi, had at the meeting on FGM with governors’ wives from South West in Ibadan, lamented that the state ranked third in Nigeria, coming behind Osun and Ekiti, but ahead of Ebonyi, Imo and Lagos staes in that order:
“To generate an accelerated state and community response and in furtherance of one of the specific targets of goal five of the sustainable development goals, which is to end female genital mutilation by the year 2030, my office, in collaboration with the Access to Basic (medical) Care Foundation, Action Health Incorporated and the United States Population Fund, relevant state ministries and parastatals as well as other stakeholders including traditional rulers, has taken it upon itself to own this fight against female genital mutilation in Oyo State.”