What is FGM or FC?

Female Genital Mutilation(FGM) or Female Circumcision (FC) is a universally accepted term that describes the excision of all or portions of the Female genitals using a blade, a knife or any sharp object.

The four types of FGM:

Type one: This is the excision (removal) of the clitoral hood with or without removal of all or part of the clitoris.

Type two: This is the excision (removal) of the clitoris together with part or all of the labia minora (the inner vaginal lips).

Type three: This is the excision (removal) of part or all of the external genitalia (clitoris, labia minora and labia majora) and stitching or narrowing of the vaginal opening, leaving a very small opening, about the size of a matchstick, to allow for the flow of urine and menstrual blood. The girl or woman’s legs are generally bound together from the hip to the ankle so she remains immobile for approximately 40 days to allow for the formation of scar tissue.

Type four: Type IV includes the introduction of corrosive substances into the vagina. This form is practiced to a much lesser extent than the other forms in Nigeria.

Why the Practice?

FGM is deeply steeped in traditional and religious beliefs. It is practiced by Christians, Muslims and other African traditional religions.

Recent statistics from UNICEF shows that the Nigeria’s population of nearly 170 million people, puts Nigeria at a high incidence level. UNICEF says that over 80% of girls aged 15- 49 year have undergone FGM in the most States in the West and Eastern part of Nigeria. See UNICEF Stats here: http://www.unicef.org/nigeria/FGM_.pdf (Accessed July 27, 2016)

According to UNICEF, “the government of Nigeria in the last decade recognized the practice [FGM/C] as harmful to children and women and has embarked on corrective measures, aimed at addressing the end of the practice openly and energetically, through the formulation of policies programs, legislation and behavioral change that has currently impact reduction in prevalence. The practice is founded in traditional beliefs and societal pressure to conform”Other reasons for the continuation of FGM and harmful traditional practices are as follows:

A.Lack of enforcement mechanisms

There is not enough enforcement mechanisms.

B.Cultural beliefs

Because people hold on to their cultural beliefs, it is sometimes inimical to the eradication of these harmful practices.

Another reason that was raiison expressed by activists is the issue of silence. For instance, rape victims rarely report to the police for fear of ridicule and reprimand.

Sometimes, communal pressure on the parents of an uncircumcised females in some communities make them succumb to the pressure. Some of these parents choose the path of “medicalization” whereby the girls are circumcised in a hospital environment. The idea is that if it is done in a sterile environment, then their daughters are not exposed to infection that leads to death. The World Heath Organization (WHO) has sternly warned against medicalization of FGM. Despite WHO’s outright condemnation, the practice still goes on by some medical professionals.

The general consensus among the people I interviewed during the course of this research from various parts of Nigeria, none of whom support the practice, is that adherence to the culture of the land is a serious impediment to the eradication of FGM.

C. Lack of Protection from the Enforcement Agencies.

During my trips to Nigeria, I noted with dismay that people do not have the confidence to look to the law enforcement for protection as much as they should. As an example, Imo Sate government in an effort to get the government closer to the people, have these free emergencies numbers available to call in time of need: 2348028422049 and 2348028422053. I called these number to check them out. Alas I was asked to leave a voicemail! How does someone who’s life is threatened leave a voice mail?

People in more advanced countries can pick up the telephone and call the police and help will come running. It is not so in Nigeria.

D.The role of Sensitization to end FGM.

A major tool to end FGM is the role of sensitization. I am happy to note that there is a lot of sensitization going on at all levels including the grassroots. It is my hope that just like the killing of twins was abolished through the sensitization efforts of the Scottish missionary, Mary Slessor in the Eastern part of Nigeria, one day soon, no girl, not one female child will be in the danger of being circumcised!

I hope that the next time I update the status of FGM in Nigeria, it will be to announce a total abolition of the practice.

Joy Walker

August 2016

THE CHILD WEEPS by Wande George, (1998).

This picture depicts the circumcision of a few days old baby being circumcised. Wande painted to the "Suffering" theme of the campaign.