I had to battle myself to sit down and write about this topic, after my research, it was traumatizing for me and so I can imagine what the victims of this unfortunate aspect of culture went and are going through.
Female genital mutilation is such an incredibly sensitive topic to talk about, not only in Nigeria but globally; in countries such as Eritrea, Guinea, Kenya, Egypt, Sudan amongst various other countries.
Nigeria is ranked third highest in Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) prevalence in the world. It is estimated that 25percent or 19.9 million Nigerian girls and women aged between 15 to 49 years old underwent FGM/C between 2004 and 2015. These absolute numbers are only behind Egypt with 27.2 million victims and Ethiopia with 23.8 million victims respectively (UNICEF 2016).
The Nigerian estimate is consistent with prevalence rates derived from the analysis of the 2013 Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS) data.
Globally, over at least 200 million women alive today have gone under some form of genital mutilation. In Africa, it is practiced mostly in countries like Kenya, Nigeria, Mali, Upper Volta, Ivory Coast, Egypt, Mozambique and Sudan. Although similar to male circumcision were the functioning genitalia is removed in other to seek control of the body and sexuality, female mutilation is far more dangerous. The practice causes physical health damages and also affects the victim psychologically.
It can also be considered as a form of gender discrimination. In societies were gender mutilation is practised, women will never be considered as equals to their male counterpart. According to the World Health Organization, “Female genital mutilation constitutes all procedures which involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs whether for cultural or any other non-therapeutic reasons;” and is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women.
Female mutilation hinders the health of women who have been mutilated. Women who have faced sever mutilation are at risk of constant health problems for the rest of their lives. According to the world health organisation, the procedure is often carried out with crude tools used for mutilating the genitalia. Some of these tools include scissors, scalpels, pieces of glass, or razor blades.
Additionally, carried out in unsanitary rooms which may easily expose women to HIV and other genital infections due to harmful surroundings. Also, women often experience severe pains while being mutilated as they are held down by relatives. The severity of this pain also leads to shock and massive blood loss which may lead to death. According to the world health organisation, death can be caused by infections, including tetanus and haemorrhage that can lead to shock. Genital mutilation can also make urination a painful process due to obstruction of the urethra and recurrent urinary tract infections.
Finally, genital mutilation affects the female sexual health, and also puts them and their child at risk during labour. This experience may affect them psychologically. Removal of, or damage to highly sensitive genital tissue, especially the clitoris, may affect sexual sensitivity and lead to sexual problems, such as decreased sexual desire and pleasure, pain during sex, difficulty during penetration, decreased lubrication during intercourse, reduced frequency or absence of orgasm (World Health Organization). Furthermore, obstetric complications can result in a higher incidence of infant resuscitation at delivery and intra-partum stillbirth and neonatal death.
World health organization argues that some studies have shown an increased likelihood of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety disorders and depression. The cultural significance of FGM might not protect against psychological complications.
Genital mutilation is not only harmful, but leads to untimely death of women. It leads to injury, and a life time of pain due to the unpleasant procedure. Furthermore, infections and diseases are being spread as a result of unsanitary surroundings. Genital mutilation is often practised in rural areas and villages were they have no knowledge about it.
People should be educated about the dangers of genital mutilation. There should be an awareness at all levels of society including teaching it in schools, work and places of worship. Genital mutilation is a social problem therefore social advocacy can help tame the scourge.