The above picture says it all! But to some, the message falls on deaf ears! If we see the Nigerian timeline of the past year, the African nation was in the news for all the wrong reasons.
First, the country has always been in the news for the prevailing gender-inequality based atrocities committed on women in the deep-rooted patriarchal social framework. Secondly, the mass kidnapping of about 300 Chibok school girls by radical Islamic extremist group Boko Haram. What followed was a series of heart-wrenching cruelties on the common Nigerian. But, after all this, the good news was the landmark decision by the Senate that passed the Violence against Persons Prohibition Bill which seeks to eliminate all sorts of gender-based violence including the female genital mutilation (FGM).
Female genital mutilation, the inhuman practice of removal of some or all of external female genitalia using a blade or razor, is carried out in 27 other African countries apart from the Middle East and Asia. Although Nigeria took the first step, banning alone will not weed out this culturally rooted horrendous practice. It is the changing attitudes and a systematic cultural shift that can ensure the safety of girls and women. To see the history of the FGM ban, United Nations banned this evil practice globally in the year 2012, but as we can see that the practice is still ongoing in majority of the African nations.
Reasons for Following the Inhuman Practice Even in the 21st Century
- Sociological: The practice is largely followed so that girls can get into womanhood early and can identify themselves with the cultural heritage and maintain social fabric and integration.
- Religious Aspect: There is a popular belief in certain tribes that it is demanded by certain religions and that is why they practice it.
- Psychosexual: When it comes to a girl’s body, the most crucial aspect for her is to protect her virginity and maintain chastity before marriage. So, to enhance the male sexual pleasure and satisfy his ego and attenuate the sexual desire in a female, the circumcision is done.
- Hygiene & Aesthetics: There are many societies in the world where external female genitals are considered as unsightly and unclean. To make the woman pure, they perform this inhuman task and rob her off from her genitals that is perceived to promote hygiene and retain the aesthetic appeal.
- Other Reasons: Some other related reasons could be to enhance woman’s fertility, find better marriage prospects, promote child survival and help in delivery.
Adverse Health Impact of Genital Mutilation
Since this harsh practice is committed on a woman, it affects her physical and emotional well-being. She has to undergo a lot of pain and gets afflicted by infections. According to the World Health Organization, Nigeria has the highest number of FGM cases and as per UNICEF, the country accounts for about a quarter of circumcised females. Thus, it does irreplaceable harm to a woman’s health on top of the trauma, which could even lead to death. Therefore, the impacts can be categorized into:
- Short-term and Late Complications – This depends largely on the Type of FGM performed and the experience of the practitioner and the instruments that are used. Below find a list of the common short-term complications –
- Excessive bleeding
- Healing problems
- Urine retention
- Wound infections
- Urinary infection
The long-term complications of FGM are –
- Pain while urinating
- Pain during intercourse
- Scar formation around the region
- Pregnancy & Childbirth – The adverse impact of FGM on a pregnant woman are:
- Excessive blood loss
- Neonatal mortality
- Sexual Function & Psychological Impact – Women who have undergone this are found to have:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- No or reduced sexual feelings
- Extremely painful sexual intercourse
But the most pertinent question arises – Who has given the society the right to circumcise a part so private without the consent of the woman? This right directly contravenes with the Fundamental Violation of Human Rights. No one has an answer to this because it is being blindly followed and none has raised their concern over the matter apart from a few NGOs and women activist groups. What about the society at large? Will it be able to accept this change especially now when the law is passed? These are some grave issues that need serious attention of the mankind irrespective of the gender.
The commitments made at the Girl Summit 2014 focus on tougher laws and enhanced funding for creating prevention programmes that combat such horrendous practices.
Stella Mukasa, Director of Gender, Violence and Rights at the International Center for Research on Women says, “It is crucial that we scale up efforts to change traditional cultural views that underpin violence against women. Doing so involves laws and policies as well as community level engagement and programs that work to empower girls directly”.