The power of the media in shaping perceptions and influencing public opinion is well-known. The media have transcended time and age, going through various tools and forms, and stayed true to its influencing power.
We have witnessed discussions attempting to determine if the media influences social norms and practices, or whether the opposite would be more accurate. I believe it goes both ways, and this belief was solidified when I read through the research done by Jama Jack on the representation of women in the media. However, with increasing mutations in the way we communicate, I would think the media has a greater influence on our daily living and, as such, is one of the most powerful tools in advocacy on various social issues.
I want to believe we must have heard of Female genital mutilation, some call it cutiing while some say its female circumcision. Permit me start with a brief introduction of the subject matter Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C).
FGM/C is the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, includes all intentional procedures that alters or causes injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.
FGM/C is mostly carried out by traditional circumcisers; it is mostly done to girls between ages 1-15 and on some occasions during pregnancy or shortly before childbirth by health professionals.
Many believe FGM/C procedure is safer when medicalized. Although the World Health Organization (WHO) firmly urges health workers not to perform FGM/C on patients the practice is still widely practiced anyway.
FGM/C is recognized globally as the violation of human rights of girls and women, FGM/C is an extreme form of discrimination against women as it is performed mostly with the aim of curtailing women’s sexual attitudes.
FGM/C is a form of Gender Based Violence (GBV) and institutions are on-going to put an end to all forms of GBV. The WHO estimates that 200 million girls and women worldwide are currently living with the implications of FGM/C (UNICEF 2014)
Types/variation of FGM in Nigeria
FGM practiced in Nigeria is classified into four types as follows.
1. Clitoridectomy or Type I (the least severe form of the practice): It involves the removal of the prepuce or the hood of the clitoris and all or part of the clitoris. In Nigeria, this usually involves excision of only a part of the clitoris.
2. Type II or “sunna” is a more severe practice that involves the removal of the clitoris along with partial or total excision of the labia minora.
Type I and Type II are more widespread but less harmful compared to Type III.
3. Type III (infibulation) is the most severe form of FGM. It involves the removal of the clitoris, the labia minora and adjacent medial part of the labia majora and the stitching of the vaginal orifice, leaving an opening of the size of a pin head to allow for menstrual flow or urine.
4. Type IV or other unclassified types recognized by include introcision and gishiri cuts, pricking, piercing, or incision of the clitoris and/or labia, scraping and/or cutting of the vagina (angrya cuts), stretching the clitoris and/or labia, cauterization, the introduction of corrosive substances and herbs in the vagina, and other forms.
FGM varies from country to country, tribes, religion, and from one state and cultural setting to another and no continent in the world has been exempted. In most parts of Nigeria, it is carried out at a very young age (minors) and there is no possibility of the individual’s consent.
Type I and Type II are more widespread and less harmful compared to Type III and Type IV. In Nigeria, there is greater prevalence of Type I excision in the south, with extreme forms of FGM prevalent in the North. Practice of FGM has no relationship with religion
FGM and women’s rights
FGM is recognized worldwide as a fundamental violation of the human rights of girls and women. It reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women.
It involves violation of rights of the children and violation of a person’s right to health, security, and physical integrity, the right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment, and the right to life when the procedure results in death.
Furthermore, girls usually undergo the practice without their informed consent, depriving them of the opportunity to make independent decision about their bodies.
Reasons to justify FGM
The respondents gave reasons for FGM. They regarded FGM as a tribal traditional practice (our custom is a good tradition and has to be protected), as a superstitious belief practiced for preservation of chastity and purification,
family honor, hygiene, esthetic reasons, protection of virginity and prevention of promiscuity, modification of sociosexual attitudes (countering failure of a woman to attain orgasm), increasing sexual pleasure of husband, enhancing fertility and increasing matrimonial opportunities.
Other reasons are to prevent mother and child from dying during childbirth and for legal reasons (one cannot inherit property if not circumcised).
In some parts of Nigeria, the cut edges of the external genitalia are smeared with secretions from a snail footpad with the belief that the snail being a slow animal would influence the circumcised girl to “go slow” with sexual activities in future.
However, FGM is often routinely performed as an integral part of social conformity and in line with community identity.
Health consequences of FGM
An estimated 200 million girls and women worldwide are currently living with the consequences of FGM. In Africa, about 3 million girls are at risk for FGM annually. Despite the increased international and little national attention, the prevalence of FGM overall has declined very little. The procedure has no health benefits for girls and women.
Adverse consequences of FGM are shock from pain and hemorrhage, infection, acute urinary retention following such trauma, damage to the urethra or anus in the struggle of the victim during the procedure making the extent of the operation dictated in many cases by chance, chronic pelvic infection, acquired gynatresia resulting in hematocolpos, vulval adhesions, dysmenorrhea, retention cysts, and sexual difficulties with anorgasmia.
Other complications are implantation dermoid cysts and keloids and sexual dysfunction.
Obstetric complications include perineal lacerations and inevitable need for episiotomy in infibulated paturients.
Others are defibulation with bleeding, injury to urethra and bladder, injury to rectum, and purperial sepsis. Prolonged labor, delayed 2nd stage and obstructed labor leading to fistulae formation, and increased perinatal morbidity and mortality have been associated with FGM.
The mental and psychological agony attached with FGM is deemed the most serious complication because the problem does not manifest outwardly for help to be offered. The young girl is in constant fear of the procedure and after the ritual she dreads sex because of anticipated pain and dreads childbirth because of complications caused by FGM. Such girls may not complain but end up becoming frigid and withdrawn resulting in marital disharmony.
What role can young people play in ending female genital mutilation in Nigeria using Social Media?
Having stated the types, consequences and myths behind FGM/C and the importance of the social media, let’s just take a few ways the youth can use the social media to end female genital mutilation (FGM/C)
- Creating Awareness
Although FGM was banned in Nigeria in May 2015 by the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan, many communities still practice this painful act. Because young people are predominantly affected, they can help end this practice by engaging in aggressive awareness social media campaigns using all available social media platforms such as WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter etc.
Highlighting the harmful health implications of FGM to Social media followers and friends. Youth in communities where it is practiced, will be educated that girl children who do not undergo FGM grow up to be healthy women
- Encourage Youths to stand against female genital mutilation
The social media is a very good place to come out and openly announce that you stand against female genital mutilation stating why you don’t support the practice.
Also an online conference can be organized to educate the youth on this harmful practice, just like this we are having can be organized on social media, for example we have our weekly tweet conference on twitter every Thursday by 5pm (you can join this Thursday using #endcuttingirls)
- Startup/ Promote an online contest or challenge which is centered towards ending FGM/C
For examples every last Friday of the month is known as Frown Challenge Fridays (FCF) and to partake in this contest/ challenge, all you have to do is upload a pics of your frown and use the hashtag and write your opinion on FGM/C, its been on for a while now, you can join also.
4. Share Pictures and words on marble centered towards #endcuttinggirls
The social media platforms for example facebooks is a place where we can upload pictures and words on marbles for our friends to see and before you know it, yours friends have downloaded and they are already sharing.
5. Promote the #endcuttingirls campaign
This campaign have started for over a year now, we can use the social media to trend the hashtag and before we know it everyone will hear about it, I wont be surprise to see people having it inscribed on their clothes.