Genital mutilation does not make a girl “clean” - Experts
Some cultural ideals of femininity and modesty especially in Africa notes that, girls are clean and beautiful after removal of body parts that are considered unclean, hence the practice of Female Genital Mutilation, FGM.
The girl-child is considered unfeminine until mutilated as it is belief to give the female a sense of belonging, acceptance into the society and womanhood
FGM involves the partial or total removal of external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. The practice has no health benefits.
It is mostly carried out by traditional circumcisers who often play other central roles in communities, such as attending childbirths.
FGM is often considered a necessary part of raising a girl, and a way to prepare her for adulthood, marriage and often motivated by beliefs about what is considered acceptable sexual behaviour as well as aims to ensure premarital virginity and marital fidelity.
It is also believed in many communities that FGM reduces a woman's libido and therefore help her resist extramarital sexual acts.
According to World Health Organization, WHO, FGM is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women. It reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes, and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women. It is nearly always carried out on minors and is a violation of the rights of children.
WHO also states that, the practice also violates a person's rights to health, security and physical integrity, the right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and the right to life when the procedure results in death.
The global health body says, more than 200 million girls and women alive today have been cut in 30 countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia where FGM is concentrated, adding that treatment of health complications of FGM in 27 high prevalence countries costs 1.4 billion USD per year.
Over time, FGM is seen to have caused severe bleeding and problems urinating, and later cysts, infections, as well as complications in childbirth and increased risk of newborn deaths.
Harmful practices such as mutilating the genitalia of the girl child, mostly carried out between infancy and age 15, has continued to linger globally despite awareness to curb the deadly act as experts say, that the dangers outweighs whatever benefit associated with it.
Debunking the myths and misconception that the female vagina is unclean until mutilated, the United Nations Children's Fund, UNICEF Consultant on FGM, Mrs. Aderonke Olutayo, stated that, "a lot of things might have gone wrong that could cause itchiness or smell from the vagina and not cutting of the girl child.
"If a girl does not keep clean, she will itch and the vagina will smell. They are merely myths and misconceptions that the vagina is unclean just so they can cut the girl child. Overtime, people have carried these lies and a lot of people buy into it. Religious wise, it is not right to cut the girl child.
"The vagina is located inside. Where they cut is the clitoris which is outside. Though we have different types of FGM but where they mutilate is the clitoris, the labia minora, and majora," she said.
The UNICEF Consultant affirmed that, achieving zero tolerance to FGM is possible as in time past, "a woman rose up to stop the killing of twins and now, we don't kill twins anymore", adding that tribal mark is also entrenched in tradition and people don't give their babies marks anymore.
Olutayo pointed that the practice is entrenched in social norm and tradition, hence would need time to take out, stressing the need for continuous sensitization and awareness creation would educate the people on the threat posed by FGM and as well desist from it.
Olutayo said, "if everybody is aware of the enormous health implications of FGM, nobody would want his/her child mutilated. It is feasible to end FGM by 2030 if all hands work together and that is our goal."
She said presently in Nigeria, UNICEF is working with five States of the federation that are high prevalence in the practice of FGM, they include: Ekiti, Osun, Oyo, Imo and Ebonyi State.
Going forward, Olutayo said, ending FGM requires the buy in of everyone including the doctors, nurses, churches, mosque, traditional leaders, school, market place, amongst others.
She said, "the government should buy into the elimination of FGM and take over the issue, so that it can be sustainable because donor agencies can't go on for life, hence the need for every State and local government to create a budget line geared towards eliminating FGM in the country."
Speaking in an interview, the Executive Director, Child Health Advocacy Initiative, CHAI, Mrs. Elizabeth Lola Alonge said from creation, God has made the girl child the way He wants her to be.
Alonge added that, "there is no need to remove anything from the genitalia of the girl child. Clean or not clean, it is just a misconception. The female child is okay. She is clean. It is not like the male circumcision where it is done for obvious reason but for female it is not acceptable."
With the theme of this year's International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation: "Unleashing Youth Power" the Executive Director said the youth have a great role to play and I’m happy a lot of young activist are doing a lot of work using the media to raise awareness against FGM.
What this means, Alonge stated, that "the younger ones are not going to do it any longer since it's been done out of ignorance but things are changing and so the culture must change for good when necessary.
"When you look at medicalization of FGM, my organisation, CHAI, did a video awareness campaign involving young medical student as advocates to go out there to say, "yes, Our mothers went through it, we are not going through the same thing."
She said, these youths, are doing a lot of talk shows and community engagement involving traditional rulers to sensitize them on the need to stop female circumcision, pointing that the youth, medical student have a great role to play and they are doing quite a lot.
On medicalization of FGM, The Executive Director of CHAI said, whether it is done in the community or the hospital, it is not acceptable, adding that it poses same danger to the girl child such as: psychological effect, mental, emotional, social and infection often gotten from the process.
Alonge however called on States yet to domesticate the Violence Against Persons Prohibition, VAPP Act of 2015, should adopt it as a law and prosecute anyone who engages in FGM.