The Federal Government in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO) and other partners is harmonizing efforts to put a stop to the medicalisation of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).
Described by WHO as a violation of the human rights of girls and women, FGM is still practised in some communities in Nigeria, and sadly, evidence from the National Demographic Health Survey (NDHS) has shown that some parents go as far as engaging the services of health-workers to conduct FGM on their female children; previously nearly all FGM acts were carried out by traditional circumcisers.
According to the Secretary General of Society of Gynaecology and Obstetrics of Nigeria (SOGON), Dr. Chris Aimakhu, “You’d be surprised that some parents pay health workers as much as US$100 to circumcise their female child. To the best of my knowledge, there are absolutely no health benefits of FGM.
“It is humiliating, excruciating, barbaric and actually poses serious health threats such as tetanus, excessive bleeding, urinary problems and in worst case scenarios, death. We need to unite and speak in one voice to stop these barbaric acts.”
According to information made available from the WHO to our correspondent, at least 20 per cent of Nigerian women age 15-49 have been circumcised.
It further revealed that, in Nigeria, data from the 2018 (NDHS) shows that 20 per cent of women age 15-49 have been circumcised. The most common type of FGM in Nigeria is Type II (some flesh removed), with 41 per cent of women had FGM while undergoing the procedure. Meanwhile, 10 per cent of women underwent a Type I procedure (clitoris stitched, no flesh removed) and 6 per cent underwent a Type III procedure (also known as infibulation).
The NDHS 2018 also indicates that 7.0 per cent of circumcisions were carried out on girls age 0-14 and 8.6 per cent of women age 15-49 were carried out by medical professionals with majority of female circumcisions carried out by traditional circumcisers.
Speaking further, the Division Head of Gender, Adolescent/School Health and Elderly Care (GASHE) unit, Federal Ministry of Health, Dr. Christopher Ugboko, said “The revised National Policy on the elimination of FGM (2020 – 2024) has mapped out roles for health workers, health regulatory bodies, professional health associations and other stakeholders to prevent FGM in Nigeria.
“Specific strategies include wide sensitization and awareness creation, capacity building of health workers as well as setting up of surveillance systems to detect such practices amongst medical personnel. The Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) law has prescribed sanctions against persons implicated in FGM and its medicalization.”
Currently, in addressing this menace, the Nigerian Government developed the first National Policy and Plan of Action for the Elimination of Female Genital Mutilation in Nigeria, 2013 – 2017; which was revised in 2018. Significant milestones were recorded in the implementation of the policy over the past six years which includes the enactment of legislation outlawing FGM. However, implementation of this legislative framework remains low across the states in Nigeria.
The context of universal health coverage and respect for human rights under the 2030 sustainable development agenda mandate that stakeholders address FGM regardless of individual circumstances, cultural or social norms. In Nigeria, WHO works closely with the Government of Nigeria to promote good health and wellbeing through various interventions, one of which includes advocacy and canvassing for the end of FGM.