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FGM practice is believed to have started in ancient Egypt as far back as 5th century BC. It is a universal practise spanning beyond Africa to the Middle East, Asia, UK, US, Europe, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. It is practised in 30 countries in Africa, including Nigeria. Because of our high population, Nigeria has the highest number of FGM cases in the world. In Nigeria, FGM (Clitoridectomy) is practised in the south, while FGM (infibulation) is practised in the North. It is a practice is frowned on globally because of its many harmful effects on women; they term it as violence against women. Reports about the huge number of women affected by FGM worldwide surfaced in 1990 through data from the World Health Organization. UNICEF swung into action in 1993 by raising funds and launching a global campaign to change the narrative. It was in 2003 the date for an Observance day for awareness to eradicate FGM was adopted. And in 2012, the UN General Assembly designated February 6th as the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation. It is not a public holiday, but a day of international observance. The aim is to amplify and direct the efforts to end this practice. The theme for this year’s observance is “No Time for Global Inaction, Unite, Fund, and Act to End Female Genital Mutilation.” Nigeria has been front and centre in the move to eradicate Female Genital Mutilation. On February 6, 2003, Stella Obasanjo, the First Lady of Nigeria then and spokesperson for the Campaign Against Female Genital Mutilation, made the official declaration on “Zero Tolerance to FGM” in Africa. It was during a conference organized by the Inter-African Committee on Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children (IAC).
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This event was significant because Nigeria has the highest number of FGM victims worldwide. It rippled across the world because of its potential to impact how Africans viewed the issue. That’s why the UN Sub-Commission on Human Rights adopted that day -February 6th- as an international awareness day. Then in 2015, Goodluck Jonathan enacted a law called the Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) Act. This law “seeks to eliminate female genital mutilation and all other forms of gender-based violence.” The Federal ban acknowledges FGM as an offence. The penalty for an offender if caught is up to 4 years imprisonment, a fine of up to N200,000 or both. Even before this law was passed, Osun State had outlawed the practice. Unfortunately, tradition and culture seem to have a greater on behaviours than the law in Nigeria, as it’s still being practised in some States till date. There is still a lot we need to do to help the United Nations meet its Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) of eradicating this harmful practice in one generation. We can promote the end of female genital mutilation by coordinated and systematic efforts, engaging entire communities and focusing on human rights, gender equality, and sexual education. We need to give attention to the needs of women and girls who suffer from its consequences. You can be part of the online conversation when you take part in social media using the official material and by telling the world how you plan #Act2EndFGM!
“Together, we can end female genital mutilation by 2030. Doing so will have a positive ripple effect on the health, education and economic advancement of girls and women.”UN Secretary-General, António Guterres. Source: ICWA Wikipedia United Nations Featured Image Source: NDTV
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