Guest blog by Raymond Chima Ukwa, End FGM Ambassador.
Female genital mutilation (FGM) is an unhealthy practice, inflicted on girls and women worldwide, and it is generally recognized as a violation of human rights, which is deeply rooted in cultural beliefs and perceptions over decades and generations with no easy task for change.
As defined by the World Health Organization, FGM is all procedures that 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. In Nigeria, subjection to girls and women to obscure traditional practices is legendary.
Globally, an estimated 200 million girls and women have undergone and survived FGM/C and more than 3 million of girls are at risk for cutting each year. The irony about the practice in Nigeria is that most people think it’s only done in the rural areas, but the truth is that 32% of urban women have undergone FGM/C compared to 19% of rural women.
The form practiced varies by ethnic group and geographical location and crosses our population. Many cultures, traditions and customs, also religion, including Christians Muslims and animists alike, exist in Nigeria. With over 250 ethnic groups and a population estimated at over 170 million, it is estimated that 27% of the women in Nigeria have undergone one of these procedures.
Type (i) Clitoridectomy, which is the excision of the prepuce and clitoris, Type (ii) Excision of the prepuce, clitoris and labia minora, Type (iii) removal of part or all of the external genitalia and stitching and/or narrowing of the vaginal opening leaving a small opening for urine and menstrual flow.
While all three forms occur throughout the country, type iii, the most severe form, has a higher incidence in the northern states; type I and II are more predominant, in the south. Of the six largest ethnic groups, only the Fulani do not practice any form.
Thus some Nigerians continue this practice out of adherence to a cultural dictate that uncircumcised women are promiscuous, unclean, unmarriageable, physically undesirable, and potential health risk to themselves and their children especially during childbirth but these are not true.
The truth is that our progress as a country and continent will depend on upholding the human rights of all people, for each of us to be treated with dignity, each of us must be sure to also extend same dignity to others. We have talented daughters, who are just as capable as our sons; we can’t let old traditions stand in the way. The march of history shows that we have the capacity to broaden our mind’s imaginations; we have come to see that some traditions are good for us; they keep us grounded, but that in our modern world, other traditions set us back. When our girls are subjected to the mutilation of their bodies, it sets us back, that is not a good tradition and it needs to end.