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FGM: Preserving culture or destroying womanhood?

by adminV
The Chief Mutilator and some of the members of the community.

Female Genital Mutilation is an age-long practice without trace,
prevalent in Southwest and South-eastern parts of Nigeria, Victor
Ogunyinka writes on the dehumanising nature of the practice on the
female gender.

Do I enjoy s3x? I’ve never thought about that and honestly, I don’t know
if I do enjoy s3x, but I think it is not in my place to enjoy s3x.
Whenever my husband says it’s time for s3x, then, I must be ready to
satisfy him.”

This was the submission of Bose Adekanyin (not real names), a female genital mutilated survivor and mother of three.
 There has been unending debates as to whether or not Female Genital
Mutilation and Cutting (FGM/C) should be practised. Practitioners see it
as an inherited traditional practice that should be sustained
regardless of modern trends and culture, but emerging facts about the
practice have shown that FGM/C, because of its conventional practice,
has been the cause of some health impediments among the girl-child and
women.
Comparing male circumcision to female mutilation, under which some
practitioners have hidden, categorically showed that they are worlds
apart.
Circumcision is simply described as removal of part or the entire
foreskin, while mutilation, according to the World Health Organisation
(WHO), is the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia
or any other injury to the female genital organ for non-medical
reasons.
Recently, the world marked its annual International Day for Zero
Tolerance for FGM/C and overwhelming statistics showed that Nigeria is
third largest country with the rate of Female Genital Mutilation
practice, behind Egypt and Ethiopia.
While giving an overview of the situation of FGM/C in Nigeria and its
impact at Leisure Springs Hotel, Osogbo, Osun State, Mrs Maryam Enyiazu,
Child Protection Specialist, United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF),
revealed that Osun, Ondo, Ekiti, Ogun, Ebonyi, Imo and Lagos are among
the states with the highest numbers of practice.
Mrs Enyiazu categorised the types of mutilation under four:
“Clitoridectomy: partial or total removal of the clitoris; excision;
infibulations: narrowing of the vaginal opening through the creation of a
covering or seal and the unclassified, which includes other harmful
procedure for the female genitalia for no-medical purposes.
“According to an information gathered by the National Demographic Health
Survey in 2013 on Female Genital Mutilation in Nigeria from women
between ages 15 and 49, revealed that 27 per cent of women in that age
group has been mutilated; 82 per cent had the practice before age five,
it is most prevalent among Yoruba women (55 per cent) and Igbo women (45
per cent).
“Eighty-seven per cent of girls between zero and 14 years of age and 50
per cent of women between ages 15 and 49 were cut by Traditional Birth
Attendants and 12 per cent of girls were cut by medical professionals,”
she revealed.
A trip to Ile-Ife in Osun State, where FGM is still an in-thing, paints a
picture of a community righteously and ignorantly mutilating girls and
women, with the aim of sustaining an age long practice solely to prevent
the girl-child from promiscuity.
While speaking to the acting head of circumcisers at New Market,
Ile-Ife, Osun State, Chief Isaiah Fayomi, 83, explained that he
practiced circumcision for both boys and girls for 60 years, but had to
stop when the state government pronounced that the practised was a
punishable offence.
“When I was circumcised, we were seven that went through the knife in my
family at the same time. I learnt this practice from my father, but I
had to stop when I learnt a law has been passed against it in Osun
State. I stopped female mutilation about seven years ago.
“When I do circumcision for people, it heals very fast and this has
earned me fame in neighbouring communities; people come for me in the
whole of Ile-Ife, Ipetu, Gbogan, Modakeke, Ikire; I am very fast and
skilful and my wife is also very good at circumcision.
“In truth, I’m in total support of putting an end to female mutilation
and that is because I am better enlightened on the danger it portends.
But I want to say it is a cultural and traditional practice, my father
practised it and he also inherited it from my grandfather. There is this
belief that if a woman is not circumcised, she is likely to be
promiscuous and nobody wants her daughter to be promiscuous, so, they
opt for mutilation to prevent them from promiscuity,” he said.
Some of the myths gathered in the community for the practice of FGM
include: for cultural aesthetics; some believe the genitals are ugly,
that the clitoris has special powers that could damage the penis, that
it is a rite of passage from girl to womanhood, it is sustaining a set
value and rituals in a community, preservation of virginity until
wedding night and it increases the chances of marriage as it is believed
that uncircumcised girls are not likely to get married.
Buttressing these beliefs and why it should be sustained, Babatunde
Sadiat, a cloth merchant, in her forties, explained that though she is
not a circumciser, but she is strongly in support of the practice for
girls. “I have a younger sister, while growing up, she was always
fondling with her genitals and I envisaged that if she wasn’t mutilated
in time, she might end up running after boys. The moment we mutilated
her, she stopped fondling with her genitals.
“It is not good for one not to mutilate girls because there are
organisms in the organ (clitoris), after mutilation, you’ll see the
organisms and that is what tickles the girl-child. If it is not removed,
she might be promiscuous. When they asked us to stop in Osun State, we
went to another state to mutilate a girl and she was alright. If it is
so bad, why didn’t they place a ban on male circumcision too?”
Furthermore, the result of an opinion poll conducted nationwide on the
Nigerian Tribune website in the cause of writing this report, to
ascertain if respondents would marry a girl that is not mutilated,
revealed that 68 per cent of the respondents would marry a girl that is
not mutilated, 23 per cent of the respondents wouldn’t and 10 per cent
are indifferent.
Christiana Afayomi, wife of the chief circumciser, when asked about the
precaution taken in order to prevent infecting babies with diseases
during mutilation explained that though she has just one scissors to
perform the countless ‘mutilation operations’, she sterilised her
equipment by soaking in warm water before using on another baby.
Some of the health complications attached to FGM/C, according to Enyiazu
are,”trauma, HIV from unsterilised cutting, severe bleeding, low
self-esteem, difficulties during s3xual intercourse and urination,
Vesico Vaginal Fistula among others.

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