TWEET CONFERENCE SCRIPT: Gender Inequality and Social Norm: FGM as a Case Study – 6th December, 2018

The World Health Organisation (@WHO), defines the term “Female Genital Mutilation” as “all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons”.

There are 4 Types of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)

Type I: partial or total removal of the clitoris and/or the prepuce (Clitoridectomy).

Subgroups of Type I FGM are: type Ia, removal of the clitoral hood or prepuce only; type Ib, removal of the clitoris with the prepuce.

Type II: partial or total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora, with or without excision of the labia majora (excision).

Subgroups of Type II FGM are: type IIa, removal of the labia minora only; type IIb, partial or total removal of the clitoris and labia minora; type IIc, partial or total removal of the clitoris, labia minora and labia majora.

Type III: narrowing of the vaginal orifice with creation of a covering seal by cutting and appositioning the labia minora and/or the labia majora, with or without excision of the clitoris (infibulation).

Subgroups of Type III FGM are: type IIIa, removal and apposition of the labia minora; type IIIb, removal and apposition of the labia majora.

Reinfibulation is covered under this definition. This is a procedure to recreate an infibulation, for example after childbirth when defibulation is necessary.

Type IV: unclassified – all other harmful procedures to the female genitalia for nonmedical purposes, for example, pricking, piercing, incising, scraping and cauterization.

FGM has no benefits rather so many complications which can be early and late complications  

Early complications include; excessive bleeding, shock, rib fractures, infections, sepsis,  

Later complications; Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), difficulty during child birth, Vesico Vaginal Fistula (VVF) and so many others.  

 FGM is fuelled by so many myths which form the pillars of gender inequality in our society.  Gender inequality is the idea and situation that men and women are not equal. Gender inequality acknowledges the different treatment or perceptions of individuals wholly or partly due to their gender.  

In our society today, women are at the tail end of the gender scale as the society puts their male counterparts as more important.  

In many situations, women and men of equal status may be doing the same job but the men receive higher pay for the same job.  Traditionally, women are raised to see men as their superiors such that men make major decisions that are binding on the women folk.  

So many social norms come in place to ensure girls are raised to see men as their superior as well as work towards being appreciated by them even if does not serve the girls’ good.  

Social norms are defined as the customary rules that govern the behaviour of groups and societies. They have to do with what communities believe is morally right and how they expect their members to behave and act. It is now widely acknowledged that FGM functions as a self-reinforcing social convention or social norm (UNICEF, 2013).  

As a Social Norms, FGM is routed in so many myths and misconceptions, one of which states that the practice can prevent Promiscuity.  This is in a bid to control the sexuality of these women and girls, so they can be more appreciated by the male folk, although it is harmful to their health and psychology.  One of the consequences of this act is that it prevents the women that have undergone FGM from attaining sexual pleasure like their male partner.  

Every 7 seconds a girl is cut somewhere in the world all because our society think it is part of preparing her as a complete woman and marriageable.  

FGM as a practice creates the impression that an uncut girl is a misfit in the society and unable to stay in marriage thus women and girls base their self-esteem on being cut or uncut.  To avoid the negative label attached to uncut women, and be acceptable to the community; most women are compelled to succumb to being cut against their will.  

In sustaining the practice of FGM, its harmful effects on girls and women are not put in to consideration, as well as its potential to disrupt their lives.  

In some practicing communities, many men insist on marrying cut women and even go to the extent of insisting their wives who may not have been cut should be cut.

Women and girls suffer so much at every stage of their lives from the complications of FGM, but endure the pains in silence because FGM, like other social norms, is embedded in a culture of silence.  

FGM is one of the strong pillars of gender inequality.  If we must achieve #SDG5.3, which is to eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and FGM, then we must #endcuttinggirls.

To achieve SDG 5.3, UNFPA/UNICEF Joint Programme on the elimination of FGM, and other international organisations, have taken it up as a clarion call to end all forms of gender inequality including FGM.  This further emphasizes the need for more advocacy to all relevant stakeholders on the #EndFGM campaign  

27. Women and girls need to know they are beautiful the way God created them.  They need to be empowered to recognise FGM as a form of Gender inequality and also reject it. The UN Joint Programme is doing this in Nigeria.   

Given that FGM thrives in most patriarchal societies, it is important to involve men in the campaign to end FGM. The UN Joint Programme is doing this in Nigeria by supporting “Men Engage Alliances” on ending FGM.  

There is need for anti-FGM laws to become fully operational in protecting women/girls; a case study is the arrest and prosecution of FGM offenders by the Ebonyi State Government in November 2015.  

In addition, Community sanctions should be put in place to deter community members from engage in the practice of FGM, which is harmful to girls/women.  Community leaders should be educated and made to recognise FGM as a form of Gender inequality, to that it can be abolished as a cultural practice in the practicing communities’. FGM is included in the Nigeria school curriculum as a harmful traditional practice.  However, we need to enhance the teacher’s knowledge about FGM, to enable them to recognise FGM as a form of Gender inequality.  

There is need to train and re-orient circumcisers in other jobs especially those who use cutting as means of livelihood to enable them recognise that they are breaking the anti-FGM laws.  There is need for to improve the capacity of service providers to meet the health, social and legal needs of FGM survivors. The UN Joint Programme is doing this in Nigeria.  

FGM survivors should also be referred to centres for reconstruction surgeries and supported to receive services in places such as the National Obstetrics and Fistula Centre, (NOFIC) Abakaliki, Ebonyi State.  

There is need to train and re-orient health workers on the dangers of medicalization of FGM. They also need to be supported to become advocates in the campaign to end FGM.   

FGM survivors can be trained to become  #endcuttinggirls advocates.

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