United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA) is urging wives of state governors in Nigeria to assist in the fight to eradicate the prevalent case of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in the country.
Ms. Ratidzai Ndhlovu, the country representative of the UNFPA, gave the charge at the opening of a high-level meeting on female genital mutilation in Osogbo, Osun State capital.
The meeting, jointly organised by UNFPA and Shericare Foundation (SCARF), was attended by the wives of state governors of Osun, Oyo, Ekiti, and representatives of the wives of the governors of Lagos, Imo and Ebonyi States.
The UNFPA boss remarked that it was important for the wives of governors and other stakeholders in the country to ensure strict compliance with the existing law on FGM and the stepping up of advocacy.
She charging the governors’ wives to use their pet-projects and goodwill to ensure the eradication of the harmful practice.
Ndhlovu noted that Osun had the highest prevalence rate of 7.6 per cent, followed by Oyo State with 7.2 per cent rate.
Addressing the gathering, the host, wife of the of the Osun State Governor, Mrs Sherifat Aregbesola, who is also the President of the partnering NGO, Shericare Foundation (SCARF), described the practice of female genital mutilation as primitive.
She wondered why primitive practice would be prevalent in the southern Nigerian states that are considered as civilised.
She, therefore, asked that all hands must be on deck to ensure that the practice is eradicated in a no long distant time.
The President of SCARF chided the procedure of female genital mutilation which involves partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, noting that the procedures intentionally alter and cause injury to the female genital organ.
Meanwhile, the proponents of FGM have argued that circumcision conforms to the nature and reduces excessive sexual urge which in turn reduces rate of promiscuity in the society.
They argue that it is genital mutilation and not circumcision that is condemnable, claiming that partial removal of topmost part of the clitoris has survived for ages without causing any major harm.
The SCARF President noted that though the country has existing national policies and laws banning female genital mutilation, a recent survey by the UN Population Agency, UNFPA revealed a prevalence of 27 percent for women between the ages of 15-49 and 19.2 percent for girls of 0-14 years.
Mrs Aregbesola warned that if the present trends continue, two million, seven hundred and eighteen thousand girls born between 2010 and 2015 will be at the risk of experiencing female genital mutilation by 2030.
While thanking her guests for honouring the call for collective drive to eradicate the practice of FGM Mrs Aregbesola argued that modern knowledge has not justified the age-long practice.
“Expansion of knowledge and scientific findings have shown that the practice of mutilation, cutting or circumcising female genitalia bears no good at all.
”If anything, it helps to heighten the age-long discrimination against the female in our parts of the world.
”The risks and damages that have been associated with FGM are in no way compensated by the customary benefits and the social and personal objectives attached to it.
”Where the health of a person, personal fulfillment and happiness are concerned, negative practice that threatens them should not prevail,” Aregbesola said.
She expressed hope that the work-plan that would come out of the meeting will aid the advocacy against FGM and address the future health challenges of girls and women.
In his contribution, the Osun State Governor, Rauf Aregbesola commended former President Goodluck Jonathan for signing into law the bill that prohibited female genital mutilation in Nigeria.
Aregbesola said irrespective of President Jonathan’s shortcomings, he must still be lauded for appending his signature on 5th May 2015.
“It must not go unnoticed that it was under the administration of Jonathan that it became a crime for anybody to mutilate the genital organ of a female in the name of circumcision or any other guise.”
“If I have been saying that the former President has not done any good for the country like most people have been saying, I want to use this opportunity to commend the former President for just one good thing he has done on the female genital mutilation law.”
The governor described the practice as, “bad, borne out of primitive idea of the effort to continually dominate females in the society which must be stopped by all well-meaning Nigerians.”
Aregbesola said government at all levels must work toward eradicating of the act which has no physical advantage.
“We have not established any scientific advantage let alone any religion supporting the practise.
”It is just a human design to suppress the other sex. We must all support UNFPA and SCARF to tell our society that an end must be put to Female Genital Mutilation in our society and Nigeria”.
By Yinka Salaam