Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is an internationally
recognized issue owing to its adverse impacts on physical and psychosocial
wellbeing and erosion of sexual and reproductive health rights among women.
to WHO, it is estimated that more than 200 million girls and women alive today
have undergone female genital mutilation in the countries where the practice is
concentrated and are living with the negative consequences of the practice.
also estimated that 3 million girls are at the risk of undergoing female
genital mutilation every year. So, what is Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)!?
Genital Mutilation (FGM) comprises all procedures that involve the partial or
total removal of external genitalia or other injury to the female genital
organs for non-medical reasons. FGM is also widely called various local and
traditional names according to the community where it is practiced.
a form of violence which is based on cultural beliefs and gender norms. This
harmful practice is performed on babies, girls and women depending on the
In most communities, FGM is seen as a
protection of virginity, a beautification process, and in a number of cultures
is regarded as an essential precondition of marriage. There are different forms
of FGM, some of which involve more radical excisions in the genital area than
The World Health Organization (WHO) has
classified FGM into four types, and they are all practiced in Nigeria.
FGM Type 1 is defined as the partial
or total removal of the clitoris and/or the prepuce (Clitoridectomy). The
subgroups of Type 1 FGM are: type 1a, removal of the clitoral hood or prepuce
only; type 1b, removal of the clitoris with the prepuce.
FGM Type 2 entails the 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 2a,
removal of the labia minora only; type 2b, partial or total removal of the
clitoris and labia minora; type 2c, partial or total removal of the clitoris,
labia minora and labia majora.
FGM Type 3 involves the 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.
FGM Type 4 is also known as unclassified
and involves all other harmful procedures to the female genitalia for
nonmedical purposes, for example, pricking, piercing, incising, scraping and
The FGM Type 4 also includes the
practice of “massaging” or applying petroleum jelly, herbal concoctions or hot
water to the clitoris to desensitize it or pushing it back into the body, which
is common in many parts of Africa including Nigeria.
FGM has so many consequences including
short and long terms consequences ranging from excessive bleeding, trauma,
Contraction of infections, etc.
For more information
on basic facts about FGM, visit www.endcuttinggirls.org Also
do well to follow the handle “Endcuttinggirls Nigeria’’ on all social media
platforms for constant updates about the EndFGM campaign.
You can also visit who.int or watch
Although the elimination of FGM was
originally regarded as a mere question of health education and information,
today FGM is recognized as a socio-cultural problem that is deeply rooted
within the societies in which it is practiced.
Thus social change is indispensable if
the practice is to be ended permanently. Commitment to ending FGM is symbolic
of the effort to strengthen the position of women and women’s rights generally,
because FGM is a serious violation of human rights.
are Women’s Rights? Women’s rights are the fundamental human rights that were
enshrined by the in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights for every human
being on the planet over 70 years ago.
rights include the right to live free from violence, slavery, and
discrimination; to be educated; to own property; to vote; and to earn a fair and
to ourworldindata.org and the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs,
about 49.6 percent of word human population is female. So, it goes without saying
women’s rights are human rights. That is to say, women are entitled to all of
these rights. Yet almost everywhere around the world, women and girls are still
denied them, often simply because of their gender.
medical friends tell me that if about 50 percent of the body does not function
well, or is deprived of required nutrients, it can lead to paralysis. Therefore, it is critical for us to actively
promote women’s rights for the world to maximise its potential for development
in all spheres.
Beyond the traditional rights, Women’s rights include a
woman’s right to decide if and when she has children, and to have high-quality
health care that means she won’t die in pregnancy or during childbirth.
From our previous twitter conferences, we already know that female
genital mutilation is a violation of women and girls’ rights, and must be
On the international scene, the foundation has been laid for
achieving gender equality and promotion of women’s rights.
This is in form of the Convention on the Elimination of
all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), an international bill of
rights for women, requires governments to end gender discrimination and affirms
women’s rights to health services, including family planning.
Another important tool is the Beijing Declaration and
Platform for Action. This was a rallying cry to entrench gender equality and
women’s rights in every aspect of life.
Female genital mutilation (FGM) is a harmful traditional
practice that involves the cutting or removal of the external genitals.
It is typically found in traditional group or community cultures with patriarchal
social structures. The reasons for the practice of FGM are complex and the
origins are often lost in the mists of time.
Many reasons have been adduced
as the reason FGM started.
say FGM is to ensure the “marriageability” of a woman, emphasizing the
ideologies of “virginity, purity, and sexual restraint”. By reducing sexual pleasure, the procedure was
erroneously used to protect young girls’ and women’s “sexual propriety” and
scholars believe that in the highly structured social framework of the ancient
Egyptian empires, FGM was implemented as a means of perpetuating inequality
between the classes, with families cutting young girls and women, signifying
their commitment to the wealthy, polygamous men of their society.
Other anthropologists believe that FGM was practised in
Equatorial Africa as an early attempt at population control.
There appears to be a link between FGM and slavery. In
1609, dos Santos reported that a group near Mogadishu, Somalia “had a custom to
sew up their females, especially young slaves to make them unable for
conception which makes them more expensive, both for their chastity and for
better confidence which their masters put in them”.
grounds the practice of FGM is in the idea of protecting the health of women
and their foetus. In some cultures, FGM is believed to improve hygiene and
increase a woman’s probability of conception with intercourse. In addition,
physical contact between the “toxic” clitoris and a baby during childbirth is
thought to be potentially fatal to the foetus.
What is clear, however, is that FGM is a manifestation of
deeply entrenched gender inequality.
Gender inequality transcends the common acts and denials we
see and talk about. Inequality is more of a mental structure that has been
embedded at an unconscious level in people.
It is this mental construct that drives the physical
manifestations. It is this mental construct that makes some women to perpetuate
the very practices and institutions that seek to bury women’s rights. It has
become the ‘norm’ in many societies. Therefore, to entrench gender equality and
promote women’s rights, we have to go beyond dealing with individual practices,
and begin to deal with the mental indoctrination at all levels.
From childhood through to the highest political, religious
and socio-cultural institutions, gender inequality is at the root of most
from the traditional, such as widowhood rites, breast tying,
denial of women inheritance, child marriage, female disenfranchisement, females
needing escorts in public, females required to cover their faces or bow their
heads when men are there, refusal to allow women decide on family planning
On to the more modern manifestations such as shortage of
women in leadership in Africa, disparity in girl child education, hiring and
wage discrepancies, spousal violence and many more.
If we can get gender equality as the new normal, not just at
a physical concept, but at a mental and social reality, then we would have very
little to do to achieve our goal to .
How then can this be achieved? We need to interrogate the
reason for all that we do. Remember that it is a first and foremost an age-long
So, we must be counter-intuitive. We must question the reason
for every decision that seems to set different standards or expectations for
the sexes. It starts from chores on the home front, to social activities, on to
economic, political, educational and legal opportunities.
rights for women is about more than giving opportunities to any individual
woman or girl; it is also about changing how countries and communities work. It
involves changing laws and policies, winning hearts and minds, and investing in
strong women’s organizations and movements.
gender equality is entrenched, once women’s rights are guaranteed and enforced,
we would have eliminated female genital mutilation along with all other harmful
traditional practices (e.g. child marriage) that negatively affect the health
and social wellbeing of women and girls.
As we celebrate the
2020 International Women’s Day (IWD) on 8th March 2020, with the campaign
theme #EachforEqual”, let us remember that “A World Without FGM Is Possible
Through Gender Equality and The Realization of Women’s Rights”.
Let’s be #EachforEqual.
Thanks for being part of our
conversations today. Join us every other Thursday 5-7pm. Visit our website www.endcuttinggirls.org
for more materials and updates on FGM, and kindly follow the handle
“Endcuttinggirls Nigeria’’ on all social media platforms. @Endcuttinggirls
It’s time to hear and respond to your
questions and/or opinions based on the conference. Keep them coming. Once
again, @Micheal_Avocat (Michael Olaniyan).