The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) yesterday warned that female genital mutilation (FGM), otherwise called female circumcision, was on the rise in Nigeria especially among girls aged below 15 years.
This, the global agency said was a “worrisome trend” in the country.
According to UNICEF, the rates of FGM have risen from 16.9 percent in 2013 to 19.2 percent in 2018, stressing that the practice remained pervasive in Nigeria.
This was contained in a statement by UNICEF to commemorate the International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM.
In the statement signed by UNICEF’s Representative in Nigeria, Peter Hawkins, the organization reeled out statistical evidence on the worrisome development in the country.
“Female genital mutilation (FGM) remains widespread in Nigeria. With an estimated 19.9 million survivors, Nigeria accounts for the third-highest number of women and girls who have undergone FGM worldwide.
“While the national prevalence of FGM among women in Nigeria aged 15-49 dropped from 25 percent in 2013 to 20 percent in 2018, prevalence among girls aged 0-14 increased from 16.9 percent to 19.2 percent in the same period, according to NDHS figures.
“An estimated 86 percent of females were cut before the age of five, while eight percent were cut between ages five and 14.
“As the world today commemorates the International Day of Zero Tolerance of FGM, 68 million girls worldwide were estimated to be at risk of female genital mutilation between 2015 and 2030.
“As COVID-19 continues to close schools and disrupt programs that help protect girls from this harmful practice, an additional two million additional cases of FGM may occur over the next decade.
“Millions of girls are being robbed of their childhoods, health, education, and aspirations every day by harmful practices such as FGM.”
It further stressed the need for increased action to end the practice of FGM in the country, saying it has no health benefits to the girl-child
“It is deeply harmful to girls and women, both physically and psychologically. It is a practice that has no place in our society today and must be ended, as many Nigerian communities have already pledged to do,” he said.
The UNICEF representative in Nigeria observed that the prevalence of FGM was highest in the south-east with 35 percent and south-west with 30 percent and lowest in the northeast with six percent.
He disclosed that: “UNICEF is initiating a community-led movement – ‘The Movement for Good’ – to eliminate FGM in five Nigerian states”, namely Ebonyi, Ekiti, Imo, Osun, and Oyo, states with a very high prevalence of the harmful practice.
“The Movement for Good” will reach five million adolescent girls and boys, women – including especially pregnant and lactating mothers – men, grandparents, and traditional, community and religious leaders, legislators, justice sector actors, and state officials through an online pledge to ‘say no’ to FGM,” he revealed.
FGM is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women. It reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes and is an extreme form of discrimination against girls and women.
It is nearly always carried out on children and is a violation of children’s rights. The practice also violates a person’s rights to health, security, and physical integrity; the right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment; and the right to life, in instances when the procedure results in death.
“The International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM reminds us that we are not alone in this work and that we need to accelerate efforts – especially with families and communities – to achieve a Nigeria safe for girls and women and finally free of FGM,” Hawkins said.
Also, UNICEF officer-in-charge of Enugu Field Office, Mrs. Maureen Zubie-Okolo noted that world leaders could save $1.4 billion annually if the practice of FGM was stopped.
Speaking on the year’s theme: ‘Accelerating Investment to end FGM in Nigeria,’ Zubie-Okolo, noted that there were no proven health benefits of the FGM practice.
Represented by Mr. Victor Atuchukwu, the UNICEF child protection specialist, Zubie-Okolo said over four million girls were at risk of genital mutilation even as COVID-19 disruptions could add two million cases of FGM by the year 2030.
UNICEF’s Child Protection Specialist, Enugu Field Office, Mr. Atuchukwu, while speaking at a media dialogue organised by the agency in collaboration with the Broadcasting Corporation of Abia (BCA) to mark the year 2022 International Day of Zero Tolerance to FGM, decried the spate of FGM in the south-east geo-political zone of Nigeria and urged state governments to key into UNICEF’s intervention strategies such as the establishment of community-based child protection facilities and consensus-building towards FGM abandonment.
“It is worthy of note that all South-East states have domesticated the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act hence the need to build consensus, establish grassroots technical committees with a view to ending FGM, ” he said.
In his remarks, Director-General of BCA, Mr. Anyaso O. Anyaso called for the collective investment of human and other resources in the fight against FGM so as to enable the female folk to fully utilize their potential to the socio-economic development of society.
Meanwhile, as the world commemorates the day of zero tolerance for the practice of FGM, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has lamented that there are numerous protection and supervisory gaps in national and international frameworks, as it affects the survivors of FGM.
The NHRC recalled that the outcome of various researches has revealed this.
The Executive Secretary of the Commission, Tony Ojukwu, who made this disclosure in Abuja at the weekend to mark the 2022 World Day of Zero Tolerance for the practice of FGM, said the Commission had always taken the lead in efforts targeted at eradicating the ugly, unhealthy, harmful and degrading practice of FGM over the years.
Ojukwu said the NHRC with the collaboration of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and Civil Resource Documentation Development Centre (CIRDDOC) produced a training Manual on human rights and other related issues of FGM in Nigeria.
He said the Manual which was developed in 2017, has continued to be a source of reference material to academia, development partners, and the public across the globe.
He added: “The Manual provides a general background analysis of women’s human rights and Female Genital Mutilation, which is a type of violence against women and girls. The Manual also provides a guide for reporting FGM in line with the prescribed standard.”
The NHRC boss also disclosed that with the support of UNFPA/UNICEF, the Commission undertook a joint program on the elimination of FGM, conducted training of stakeholders on the use of the developed Manual in five program focal states namely- Imo, Ebonyi, Osun, Oyo and Ekiti, and available statistics have indicated positive changes geared towards eliminating FGM in the country.