Written by Ijeoma UKAZU

Genital mutilation: Counting the cost for the girl-child

Part of the consequences Female Genital Mutilation poses on the girl-child according to experts includes; infertility, maternal death, infections, and the loss of sexual pleasure.

Experts have viewed this practice as harmful to girls and women and a violation of their human rights, stressing the need for more awareness in order to eliminate the practice.

While the exact number of girls and women worldwide who have undergone FGM remains unknown, reports say, at least 200 million girls and women aged 15 and 49 from 31 countries have been subjected to the practice as Nigeria accounts for most FGM, cases worldwide.

Nationally, 27 percent of Nigerian women between the ages of 15 and 49 were victims of FGM, as of 2012. In the last 30 years, prevalence of the practice has decreased by half in some parts of Nigeria, according to a United Nations Children's Fund, UNICEF, report

In many of the countries where FGM is performed, the UNICEF report also said that, it is a deeply entrenched social norm rooted in gender inequality where violence against girls and women is socially acceptable.

According to the UN body, the reasons behind the practice vary as in some cases, it is seen as a rite of passage into womanhood, while others see it as a way to suppress a woman’s sexuality. Many communities practice genital mutilation in the belief that it will ensure a girl's future marriage or family honour. Some associate it with religious beliefs, although no religious scriptures require it.

The practice which is customarily a family tradition that the young female of the age 0-15 would experience.It is a procedure that involves partial or completely removing the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs whenever for non-medical reasons.

 

According to UNICEF, FGM has no health benefits and often leads to long-term physical and psychological consequences, adding that, medical complications can include severe pain, prolonged bleeding, infection, infertility and even death as it can also lead to increased risk of HIV transmission.

Experts opine that, women who have undergone genital mutilation can experience complications during childbirth, including postpartum haemorrhage, stillbirth and early neonatal death.

 

Psychological impacts can range from a girl losing trust in her caregivers to longer-term feelings of anxiety and depression as a woman.

 

Speaking during an interview with The Abuja Inquirer to commemorate the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation in Lagos which is usually marked 6th February yearly, UNICEF FGM Consultant for South West Nigeria, Olutayo Aderonke, said FGM poses immediate risk during child birth for the woman giving rise to hemorrhage (excessive bleeding), pain, shock, and even death. 

Aderonke said, " they cut the clitoris without the use of anaesthesia, so, when the child grows up and want to have babies, she will not be able to give birth properly and that might lead to Cesarean Section because, where they cut is actually where enables the woman give birth safely as that place actually expands and when that area is cut off, there is no way that woman would have a good health during child birth.

 

"Also, sexual functioning- FGM reduces sexual desire or libido of the woman as the clitoris that is cut is the only thing that God put in women that allows her enjoy sexual satisfaction and when it is cut off, there is reduced sexual desire and reduced lubrication during sexual intercourse as well. That is why some men would say, "my wife is not good in bed" and then they look for other options. 

"We also have the psychology effect which is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder - it is the after effect of FGM, anxiety and depression are also part of the psychology effect".

Stating the long term effect of the practice, the UNICEF FGM Consultant said they include; genital tissue damage, Reproductive Tract Infections, Chronicle Genital Infections, painful urination and cyst amongst others.

On stigma, she added that, "any woman who was mutilated or cut is known to not be good in bed and no man would want to stay with such a woman- the rejection is there for the woman. This stigma leads to the right of the woman being taken away from her.  As every man enjoys his sexuality the same way a woman should enjoy hers. A lot of women have lost their homes to other women because their husband no longer enjoy sexual satisfaction." 

 

Aderonke added that some communities are publicly rejecting the practice, stating that, as at December 2020 about, "66 communities in three Local Government Areas, LGAs, of Ikole, Ado and Ekiti West in Ekiti state abandoned the practice, in Osun, we have three LGAs- Olaoluwa, Ifelodun and Ife- Central, and in Oyo state, we have 156 communities in four LGAs, Iseyin, Ogbomosho South, Ibarapa North and Oyo West."

She said UNICEF is actually engaged with a lot of LGAs and currently in South West we are working with 24 LGAs, adding that, " we intend to scale up interventions to other LGAs this year. I am sure before 2030, we would be able to eliminate FGM in Nigeria because awareness is on the increase".

Since the UNICEF/UNFPA programme was established in 2008, 13 countries have passed national legislation banning FGM. The programme has also provided access to prevention, protection and treatment services. In 2018 alone, nearly 7 million people across 19 countries participated in education, discussions and social mobilization promoting the elimination of FGM.

 

In May 2015, then President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan signed a federal law banning FGM. Opponents of the practice cite this move as an important step forward in Africa, as Nigeria is the most populous country and has set an important precedent. Though the practice has declined, activists and scholars say a cultural shift is necessary to abolish the practice, as the new law will not singularly change the wider violence against women in Nigeria.

 

Some stakeholders have said that, the progress to end FGM needs to be at least 10 times faster if the practice is to be eliminated by 2030.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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