The people of Ikeduru and Oguta Local Government Areas of Imo State have publicly denounced the practice of female genital mutilation in their communities.
This followed years of persistent advocacy and sensitization by the National Orientation Agency in collaboration (NOA) with UNICEF on the dangers inherent in cutting the female genitalia.
Traditional rulers from fifty-three communities that constitute Ikeduru and Oguta Local Government Areas led their people to the formal declaration.
Female genital mutilation is an age-long obnoxious cultural practice among the people of the south east Nigeria that dehumanizes women and the girl child.
Advocates of female genital mutilation are of the view that circumcision helps to check promiscuity in women since the sensitive organ is being tampered with during the surgery.
Although civilization has, to a reasonable extent, reduced the practice, traditional birth attendants still perform the surgery in rural areas.
Worried by health hazards posed by the act, which include keloids in the private part, infant morbidity arising from bleeding and prolong labour during child birth, UNICEF in collaboration with the NOA in Imo State engaged traditional rulers, women groups and the clergy to find ways of ending the practice.
The Chairman Ikeduru Council of Traditional Rulers, Dr. Marcel Egemonu, and his counterpart in Oguta, Eze Frankly Okafor, who led other royal fathers to denounce female genital mutilation, said the people had resolved to outlaw the practice, noting that henceforth anyone caught practicing female genital mutilation would be dealt with according to the law.
The Director NOA in Imo state, Mr. Vitus Ekeocha, described female circumcision as a violation of human rights and appealed to the people to remain resolute in their commitment.
The Child Protection Specialist UNICEF Enugu Field Office, Mr. Victor Atuchukwu, commended the people for their courage and urged them to increase surveillance, especially in families whenever a girl child is born.
The Commissioner for Gender and Vulnerable groups Affairs in the state, Mrs. Nkeiruka Ibekwe, represented by a Director in the ministry, Dr. Blessing Azubuike, noted that government had enacted laws prohibiting female circumcision and appealed to communities yet to denounce the practice to do so.
Three of the eight local government areas where UNICEF had concentrated in the campaign have made public declaration abandoning the practice.