The International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation celebrated today was established by the United Nations on the sixth of February, 2003, to check what it described as a barbaric practice that affects girls and woman globally.
Statistics by the World Health Organization, WHO, indicate that about one hundred and twenty to one hundred and forty million women have been subjected to female genital mutilation while three million girls are at risk yearly.
Female genital mutilation and cutting comprises all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other cutting or injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.
In February, last year, Wife of the President, Mrs Aisha Buhari launched a national campaign to end the practice, calling on all parties to work together to stop the practice, which could cause severe physical and psychological harm.
As the global community marks international Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation, UNICEF has called on government at all levels, Civil Society organizations, traditional and religious leaders to join hands with the international body to end the practice.
The Chief of UNICEF, Enugu Field Office, Mr. Charles Nzuki, who stated this in a media briefing in Enugu, stressed that evidence showed that there was no benefit, be it developmental, health or religious, in female genital mutilation.
MrNzuki explained that UNICEF was working with federal and state governments, especially in the southern states, that were mostly affected, training partners, creating awareness at all levels and working with communities to convince community members, to promote an end to the practice.
In separate submissions, the Head, National Institute for Cultural Orientation, Enugu Ofice, MrNnaemekaNwajagu and a mother, Doctor Vero Mogboh condemned the practice, emphasizing that it had no medical, social or cultural, justification.
Commenting on the significance of the day, the Director, Women’s Aid Collective WACOL, a non governmental organization in Enugu, Professor Joy Ezilo, attributed the practice of female circumcision to ancient customs and tradition that people believed to curb promiscuity amongst female children
‘’If you look at Nigeria now , a lot of states , have enacted law that prohibits female circumcision , I recalled the first was Edo State in 1999, quickly followed by many other states ,when it comes to sexual integrity , reproductive self determination and the rights to enjoy sex , that is a violation of their rights , and importantly because is done in childhood , before they attain the age of 18 before they can give their consent and act on their own will , it means is a violation of women’s right to make decision pertaining their own life. The government has great role to make laws and policies that will prohibit and ensure the laws are enforced effectively.There is gross abuse of human right’s of girls and women.’’
Professor Ezilo condemned female genital mutilation as a gross abuse of human rights. She urged government at all levels to take necessary steps to end female genital mutilation also known as female circumcision in the country.
She was of the view that to abolish the practice from the country, the health sector should create more awareness on the dangers of the harmful practice. Speaking on the medical implication of female genital mutilation, a retired Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Nigeria Nsukka, Doctor Gabriel Iloabachie said that some health problems experienced by women or female children could be traced to severe damage of vital organs in the reproductive system and could invariably result in death.
‘’These things were properly created by God the way they are, and when you go and cut it off ,you can have a lot of complications. The first is primary haemohrage and death, the girl child just bleed and dies.BBut most importantly, they perforate the bladder and cause visco Vagina Fistula, VVF. It can lead to infectioncausing death or the vagina becomes small and doesnot growwith age. You can have a situation that closes the virgina making it difficult for the girl to give birth when it’s time.’’
Doctor Iloabachie called for a legislation to outlaw the harmful practice of female genital mutilation.
BY EMEFIENA OKONKWO AND EVELYN AWUNOR