16 November 2017

Nigeria: Why Nigerian Govt Must Enforce Laws Against Female Genital Mutilation - Expert

The federal government has been urged to ensure implementation of laws against Female Genital Mutilation, FGM, across Nigeria to bring an end to the practice in the country.

Lola Alonge, the Executive Director of Child Health Advocacy Initiative, CHAI, made the appeal in a press statement made available to PREMIUM TIMES on Wednesday.

She said FGM is unhealthy and violates the right of women.

FGM is a procedure involving partial or total removal of external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organ for non-medical reasons. The act is globally recognised as an extreme violation of the rights of women and girls.

In some societies, it is considered a rite of passage. In others, it is seen as a pre-requisite for marriage or attributed to religious beliefs. The practice is considered a means of maintaining chastity and preventing promiscuity or infidelity.

A UNICEF recent statistics shows that the five states with the highest prevalence of FGM in Nigeria are Osun 77 per cent, Ebonyi 74 per cent, Ekiti 72 per cent, Imo, 68 per cent and Lagos 45 per cent.

According to Mrs. Alonge, about 20 million women and girls had undergone FGM in Nigeria and many more are at risk. More than 200 million women and girls are reported to have undergone FGM globally.

Warning of its dangers to women, Mrs. Alonge called on faith and traditional leaders in Nigeria to act as change agents and challenge the misconception that FGM is a religious and cultural requirement for a girl child.

Stressing the need to focus on ending the practice, she said it can cause short and long-term complications, including chronic pain, infection, increased risk of HIV transmission, anxiety and depression, birth complication, infertility and in the worst cases, death.

Mrs. Alonge explained that FGM violates human rights principles and standards including the principles of equality and non-discrimination on the basis of sex, the right to the highest attainable standard of health, the rights of the child and the right to physical and mental integrity and even the right to life.

"About one in five girls who have been subjected to FGM had the procedure performed by a trained medical professional and UNICEF data indicates that 28% of FGM cases are carried out by a health professional.

"FGM can never be "safe" and there is no medical justification for the practice even when the procedure is performed in a sterile environment and by a health care professional, there can be serious health consequences immediately and later in life.

"FGM performed in hospitals gives a false sense of security. FGM has no known health benefit and it causes lifelong physical and psychological harm. It affects the family, community, relationships and economic development" she added.

Mrs. Alonge recalled that former President Goodluck Jonathan had signed the federal Violence Against Person's Prohibition Act into law.

Among other issues, the law bans FGM and other harmful traditional practices. But the VAPP Act only applies to the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) in Abuja.

"It is up to each of the 36 states to domesticate the 2015 VAPP ACT and pass it into law. Previously 11 out of 36 states had enacted laws banning FGM (Edo, Bayelsa, Cross River, Ebonyi, Rivers, Delta, Ogun, Osun, Ondo, Ekiti, and Oyo).

"However, there is an inconsistency between the passing and enforcement of laws in Nigeria. That is why some states like Osun and Ekiti where they have existing laws have started training law enforcement officials on the law banning FGM".

Though, the Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Jide Idris, said FGM is one of the most barbaric forms of killing and harming women, he however, disagreed that health workers in Lagos conduct the act.

Mr. Idris said any health worker caught doing such will be prosecuted.

According to him, Lagos has such high percentage because the state is multicultural.

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