There are certain harmful customs that are being practiced by people in our societies and one of these dangerous traditions are female genital mutilation or female circumcision. Not only does it affect the mental and physical health of young girls, it is also dehumanizing and further brings down the value placed on the life of the girl child in many communities. Despite the campaigns against this terrible act, it is still in existence in developing countries because of the traditional beliefs attached to this act.
According to Wikipedia ‘about 27% of Nigerian women between the ages of 15 and 49 were victims of Female Genital Mutilation as of 2012. In the last 30 years, prevalence of the practice has decreased by half in some parts of Nigeria’ Even though a Federal law was passed in the year 2015 under the leadership of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, this terrible custom is still being practiced by some societies in Nigeria and it seems that just enacting a law is not enough to stop this menace without a shift in the beliefs of the people.
Violence against women is a worldwide problem and takes different forms; it is just not limited to domestic violence, rape or any other form of sexual harassment. Female Genital mutilation is a big example of how the life of a girl child in so many societies is seen as less valuable and this belief leads to creating customs that are harmful to women. Some of the reasons why females are mutilated are the beliefs that this mutilation increases the sexual pleasures among men, ensures that a girl’s virginity is intact, maintains family’s honor, increases a woman’s fertility and chance of procreation as well as maintains the traditions of the people. These beliefs as harmful as they are have found a home in so many societies making it difficult to stop this practice.
Another reason why female genital mutilation persists in certain societies is because of religion. Some ignorant Muslim clerics have painted Female Genital Mutilation as a requirement for women in Islam. However this is a misconception, there is nothing in the Islamic texts such as Qur’an or Sunnah as well as in Islamic history that supports or recommends this harmful practice. And female genital mutilation contrary to popular belief is practiced by a variety of people from Muslims, to Christians, to Jews and traditionalist.
Female Genital Mutilation is practiced in almost twenty eight countries in Africa with Nigeria having the highest number because of its large population. And the highest number of this act is found in the South South (77%), then the Southeast (68%), then the South west (65%) and lastly northern Nigeria which has the lowest prevalence rate in the country.
The obsession with the female body and female virginity is a leading cause of Female Genital Mutilation in the world and this shows how major the inequalities between boys and girls are in almost all communities as no continent is exempted from this terrible practice. Female Genital Mutilation is a fundamental human right violation and has been a cause of concern for activists and feminist all over the world.
Apart from the obvious social reasons that prove why this act needs to end , the most troubling aspect are the health consequences attached to this practice such as infections , sexual difficulties , chronic pelvic infection , vulvae adhesions , post traumatic stress disorder , shock from pain and hemorrhage , damage to the urethra , prolonged labor , sexual dysfunction etc . There is a long list of damage being caused by this act and unfortunately not even orientation on this has been able to end it completely.
Due to the actions of United Nations International Children Emergency Fund (UNICEF), World Health Organization (WHO), and Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), religious organizations, Federation of International Obstetrics and Gynecology (FIGO), recent legislations, women rights groups and feminist, the rate of Female Genital mutilation in Nigeria has greatly reduced. However, there is still work to be done.
One great way to stop Female Genital Mutilation is through the education and empowerment of women. Most women support and encourage this harmful act due to ignorance and lack of understanding of how harmful this practice is. When you educate women, you give them a chance to stand up for themselves and reclaim their bodily autonomy and also help other girls who are likely to fall victims to this terrible act. Kakenya Ntaiya , a Kenyan feminist , social activist and educator was able to save hundreds of girls from Female Genital Mutilation by founding a primary boarding school for girls called Kakenya Centre for Excellence which negotiates with parents to not agree to subject their children to this harmful act or child marriage before enrolling them in the school . And because of this courageous and heroic act, she was able to save the lives and future of so many young girls.
But there are so many women like Kakenya Ntaiya even if they remain faceless or nameless who spend most of their lives fighting selflessly against unfair and inhuman laws that harms the lives of young girls all over the world. This is why we all need to stand up against injustice in whatever form it appears and say no to violence against women and Female Genital Mutilation. You don’t have to be a victim or know a victim to stand up to this cruel, wicked and unnecessary act. You just have to be human.
Learn about this terrible act , lend your voice to the movement , support organizations that are working tirelessly to make sure it all comes to an end , if you come across this terrible practice contact the appropriate organization . Do what you can at the moment and remember you do not have to be affected by injustice to be outraged by it and silence can be harmful.
Let’s all stand against this practice. SAY NO TO FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION IN YOUR COMMUNITY TODAY. The world needs you.
By Hauwa Saleh