Let’s talk about female genital mutilation


It is no news that many young people do not fully understand the meaning of female genital mutilation (FGM), especially those who have undergone the process. This poor knowledge among young people is one of the reasons why FGM is still being practiced today.

According to the World Health Organization, female genital mutilation is defined as all procedures which involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia and/or injury to the female genital organs, whether for cultural or any other non-therapeutic reasons.

Recent reports shows that 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.

Types of Female genital mutilation

The WHO has classified FGM into four main types namely: Type 1 where the upper part if the clitoris is cut off and is commonly practiced in Nigeria. Type 2 involves cutting the clitoris and part of the internal part of the vagina (labia minora). Type 3 involves cutting part or all of the external genitalia (labia majora) and stitching or narrowing of the vaginal opening. Type 4 includes other forms such as pricking, piercing, burning, stretching, introduction of corrosive materials or herbs to cause bleeding or to tighten or narrow the vagina.

While the practice of FGM isn’t limited to Nigeria, a report by UNICEF stated that in the past, Nigeria had the highest absolute number of FGM cases worldwide,  approximately one quarter of the estimated 115-130 million cases, revealing  how common the practice of FGM is in Nigeria. For instance, the UNICEF national policy and action plan on the elimination of female genital mutilation in Nigeria states that currently, Ekiti state, in southwest Nigeria, has a prevalence of FGM of 75.3%, the highest in the country.

Because of this, it is necessary to highlight the role young people can play in totally eradicating the practice of FGM in Nigeria. Although FGM was banned in Nigeria in May 2015 by the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan, many communities still practice this painful act. Some girls are cut young as 8 days to 45 years while some communities even do it on dead women who were not cut while alive.

Why is FGM/C practiced and its dangers

FGM is still practiced for several reasons in Nigeria based on sociocultural factors, some of which include:  If the clitoris is not cut, it will injure or kill the baby during delivery and that FGM discourages promiscuity. Some communities also belief that if the clitoris is not cut, it can grow longer than the penis while some belief that if a woman who is not cut dies and is buried in the community, it would attract the wrath of the gods.

Reports have shown that the procedure of FGM has extremely negative health consequences for girls and women. The procedure can cause severe bleeding and problems such as uncontrolled bleeding and urinating, and later cysts, infections, as well as complications in childbirth and increased risk of newborn deaths.

How can young people end this?

Because young people are predominantly affected by FGM, they can help end this practice by engaging in awareness campaigns in rural communities, where cultural beliefs and societal pressure to conform to existing traditional practices force parents to let their daughters go through this excruciatingly painful and medically unnecessary procedure.

Kelechukwu Nwachukwu, Country Program Officer of the Girl Generation in Nigeria, during the Girl Generation Youth Planning Meeting to end FGM in one generation held 18-19 April said:  “Young people can end FGM through collective effort and social change communication. We are trying to set up the girl generation young forum (TGGYF) made up of youth who would be social communication change agents to help correct the myths and false cultural beliefs surrounding the practice of FGM in Nigeria.”

Sola Fagorusi, programme and media manager of One Life Initiative says: “The media has the role of amplifying the voices of young activists on issues surrounding FGM so more people can be aware of its dangers and together help end FGM in one generation.”

In December 2012, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution on the elimination of female genital mutilation. It would also be recalled that on February 9, 2016, the UNFPA in collaboration with UNICEF, the Federal Ministry of Health, Federal Ministry of Women Affairs/Social Development and the Guardian UK, launched a program that calls for the abandonment of FGM in Nigeria. It is hoped that with such programmes and that of youth-led organizations the practice of FGM in Nigeria will be ended in one generation.


Photo by Nnamdi Eseme

Author: Nnamdi Eseme

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