By Victor Adeoti
In spite of the widespread optimism that the law will save millions of Nigerian girls and women from the myriad health implications of FGM, concerned observers insist that the age-long practice is still very much in existence.
According to the United Nations Fund for Population (UNFPA), Osun State has the highest prevalence of FGM in the entire South-West geopolitical zone of Nigeria.
Mrs Ratidzai Ndhlovu, UNFPA Country Representative in Nigeria, said this at a meeting organised by UNFPA, in collaboration with Shericare Foundation (SCARF), the pet project of the wife of Osun State governor, Mrs Sherifat Aregbesola.
“The prevalence rate of female genital mutilation in Osun State stands at 76.6 per cent,’’ she said.
She stressed that all hands must be on deck to eradicate the age-long practice in the state.
Speaking on the high prevalence of FGM, Mrs Aregbesola, who is an ambassador of the anti-FGM campaign, warned perpetrators of tradition in the state to desist from the act or face the full wrath of the law.
She vehemently decried the prevalent rate of female circumcision in the state, insisting that urgent efforts should be made to stamp out the practice.
She moaned that Osun ranked number one on the list of the six states where FGM was most endemic in the country, adding that this compelled her to lead an intensive advocacy against FGM and sensitise the citizens of the state to the dangers of the tradition.
Aregbesola emphasised that the reasons adduced by those engaging in the removal of external female genitalia were not tenable, adding that the perpetrators were only inflicting unwarranted lifelong trauma on the circumcised females and denying them sexual pleasure.
“Investigations have revealed that none of the reasons adduced by perpetrators has any link to any medical objective, in which case the genitals of a female child or woman is just altered for a reason not aimed at saving her life.
“The UNFPA, through a study, has confirmed that the practice of FGM in the endemic states in Nigeria was only anchored on various traditional beliefs and social pressures to conform to culture.
“Documented studies have found that the health implications of FGM range from dangerous infections arising from unsanitary conditions, in which the practice is carried out, to death through severe bleeding,’’ she said.
Aregbesola, who described FGM as a violation of fundamental human rights, said that she would ensure that the practice was completely eradicated in the state.
Sharing similar sentiments, Dr Kayode Oguniyi, the Director of Primary Health Care and Disease Control, said that the government would henceforth ensure the strict enforcement of the law against FGM in the state.
He said that it was worrisome that Osun still had the highest prevalence of female genital mutilation in the South West.
Oguniyi said that the law prohibiting FGM in Osun, which was signed by Gov. Rauf Aregbesola, stipulated two years imprisonment without an option of fine for anyone caught engaging in the practice.
“Let me agree that Osun is still one of the places where this old tradition is still being practised.
“As regards the prevalence of female genital mutilation in the South West, Osun has the highest figure with about 76 per cent.
“We do not like it and we are working very hard to remove the tradition from our state,’’ he added.
Oguniyi said that as part of the campaign, the agency was also training some people as anti-female genital mutilation ambassadors in the state.
He said that the ambassadors carried out house-to-house campaigns to sensitise people to the ills of the harmful tradition.
Medical experts, nonetheless, insist that government at all levels ought to embark on a more aggressive public awareness campaign on the health implications of FGM, while strictly enforcing the law banning the practice.
Dr Banke Popoola, a gynaecologist, said that since there was an extant law criminalising FGM, offenders should be punished accordingly, adding that such punishments should also be publicised to serve as a deterrent to others.
She said that the cruel practice of cutting the clitoris of young females should be discouraged by everyone, particularly those in the rural communities.
Nevertheless, Dr Grace Adanri, the Research Director, Better Life Africa, called on the government to enforce all laws prohibiting violence against persons, as part of efforts to secure a better future for the Nigerian girl- child.
She said that FGM, in some cases, could lead to the opening of passages between the vagina and bladder or anus, thereby triggering Vesico-Vaginal Fistula (VVF), a condition more commonly associated with obstetrics complications such as obstructed labour in teenage pregnancy.
Besides, Adanri said that there was a possibility of the failure of the wound to heal, leading to excessive growth of scar.
“This could also lead to hepatitis and other blood-borne diseases, reproductive tract infections, infertility, obstructive labour, painful menstruation and painful sexual intercourse, among several other health issues,’’ she said.
Adanri said that FGM could as well lead to Recto-Vaginal Fistula (RVF) particularly when “the pelvis and birth canal of the pregnant woman are not fully developed’’.
She, however, underscored the need to stage intensive awareness campaigns on the ills of FGM.
Observers insist that since the World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared FGM as a violation of human rights, government should enforce the extant laws on FGM to the letter.
They insist that the kind of campaign, which was carried out during the fleeting Ebola crisis in Nigeria some years ago, should be replicated in the campaign against FGM, considering the growing number of affected females.
“It is, therefore, not be out of place to describe FGM as a heinous crime against womanhood and humanity,’’ some of the observers say. (NANFeatures)