Ugo Nosiri, Owerri
Female Genital Mutilation is an age long practice in some cultures, which is shrouded in secrecy, uncertainty, and confusion, and involves the partial cutting or entire removal of the external female genitalia, and any other harm or injury caused to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.
The practice was mostly carried out by traditional practitioners, but of recent, there is greater involvement of health care providers due to the belief that the procedure is safer when medicalised.
The UN General Assembly designated February 6th as the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation, with the aim to amplify and direct the efforts on the elimination of this practice.
As the world marks this year’s International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation, some stakeholders in the fight against FGM want governments at all levels and law enforcement agencies to ensure stringent punishment are metted out to perpetrators of FGM.
They noted that the issue of FGM has been under reported because cultural and traditional practices prohibit women from speaking out, even when they are being marginalised.
They also called on government to provide free and adequate health care for survivors of FGM who are suffering from one ailment or another due to the practice.
This year’s theme: Her Voice, Her Future, aims at investing in Survivors-Led Movements to End Female Genital Mutilation.
It is a call for survivors to come out to tell their stories by themselves, and also for the government to provide capacity for the survivors, to motivate them to do so, to help end the practice.
FGM activist Mr. Felxfame Enisire said that the practice is mostly done because of some cultural myths and misconceptions to reduce promiscuity among the female and to uphold the age long culture.
He regretted that most of the consequences of the practice occur in the later years of the victims, and most times cannot be traced back to it.
Listing out the types of FGM practiced in Nigeria, Mr. Enisire said “FGM is classified into four types: type one is Clitoridectomy, type two is Excision, type three is infibulation, type four is unclassified, it is is very common. They use vaseline or anyother harmful substance to massage the clitoris of the child inside. Most communities do not regard this as a form of FGM.”
Another advocate, Miss Milicent Onyewuchi, while calling on women to come all out and lend their voices to the fight to end the barbaric culture, noted that they are the ones who suffer the consequences, and stressed that the genitals of the girl child should not be tampered with.
She maintained that government should ensure comprehensive implementation of the Violence Against Person law and other laws against FGM, and also ensure that perpetrators are made to face stringent punishment, to help deter others from indulging in the practice.
“Miss Onyewuchi listed some of the side effects to include: excessive bleeding, keloids, urinary tract infection, and reduction of sexual libido, difficulty and during child bearing and even death.”
A survivor, 23-year-old miss Chidinma Offor from Umunoha in Mbaitoli Local Government Area of Imo State said she underwent FGM four times due to reoccurring vaginal cyst, which kept taking her back to the hospital for repeated surgeries in her genitals.
Miss Offor narrated that she was the only one in her family of ten who FGM was performed on, she said her mother did not to allow FGM to be performed on her younger ones due to the negative effects of the procedure on her.
‘I did it four times, 4 years, 11 years, 18 years and 20 years. The thing developed like egg in my vagina area. The pain was very much and blood was coming out. Thank God I didn’t give up. It normally itches me. Whenever it starts itching me, I will not know who is who, if I see a man, I even ask him for sex.”
She noted that she is now free from the complications after her fourth surgery and , promised to lend her voice in the fight to end female genital mutilation, by sharing her story.