The war against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) (also known as female circumcision) recorded a major victory on Monday when circumcision practitioners gathered and promised to stop the age-long practice.
Venue of the historic event was the Mapo Hall in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital.
In attendance were former President Olusegun Obasanjo; Osun State First Lady, Sherifat Aregbesola; the Oluwo of Iwo, Oba Abdul-Rasheed Olawale Akanbi; Mrs Maggie O. Kane, Editor and Cordinator of the Guardian Media Global Campaign to end FGM London; Dr. Comfort Momoh, MBE (a medical practitioner and UK Queens Award winner) and many other anti-FGM campaigners.
Host of the event was High Chief Abiola Ogundokun, the Chairman, Board of Trustees and Coordinator of the Circumcision Descendants Association of Nigeria (CDAN).
At the summit, circumcisers agreed to stop the practice which has been condemned as a violation of the rights of the girl child; a practice that has hurt women physically and psychologically through severe bleeding and urinary problems, cysts, infections, as well as complications in childbirth and increased risk of newborn deaths.
The circumcision practitioners present at the event were from the Southwest states of Oyo, Osun, Ekiti, Ondo and Ogun as well as Kwara. They pledged to discontinue with female circumcision and stick with male circumcision alone.
Who are circumcision practitioners?
In the Yoruba communities, the emergence of this practitioners date back to when strong cultural values were placed on circumcision for both male and female children. The traditional rulers then were provided with a team of circumcisers, who by tradition came from a particular family known as the Oloola. They soon became the circumcisers for their various towns and communities.
“These are the persons responsible for circumcising both males and females, including tribal marks and tattoo”, Chief Ogundokun explained. He however added that whoever that did not come from the Oloola family and attempted to play the role would be seen as a quack and would be penalised. “So, it is a statutory role conferred on the Oloola by the tradition and this dates back to a long distant past”, he said.
Chief Ogundokun explained that the circumcisers came together to form the CDAN because of the need to join the local and international advocacy against female genital mutilation.
He stated that within the rank and file of CDAN’s membership, the majority decision is the approval of the zero tolerance to female genital mutilation/cutting, stating: “we so hereby declare our resolution that ‘A TOTAL STOP TO FGM/C IS NOW IN PLACE…”.
The Oluwo of Iwo, Oba Akanbi, in his remark, commended everyone working for the total eradication of FGM. He said FGM can be totally eradicated because just like many traditional practices, it was the idea of one person before it gained general acceptance.
He likened the practice to that of the killing of twins which was eventually stopped following the intervention of Mary Slessor. He said, FGM can be stopped and must be stopped because “the only thing the creator commanded that should be thrown away from the female child is the umbilical cord, not any part of the reproductive or sexual organ”
But it seemed all the CDAN members were not in total agreement as to the stoppage. Even though they admitted that the practice had no significant benefit to the child, they stated that the practice has long formed part of their business and source of livelihood, explaining that it is a trade passed down to them.
One of the practitioners, wondered what alternative venture the government and campaigners had for them because they cannot afford to limit business to male circumcision alone.
Although Chief Ogundokun explained that there are proposals to support the circumcisers in other profitable businesses, former President Olusegun Obasanjo assured that they would never be let down for taking a decision to protect and empower the girl child.
In his remark, Obasanjo, represented by Dr. Femi Majekodunmi, applauded Oyo State and all other states for joining the war against FGM. He however stated that there was need for a National legislation against the pactice.
Osun state first Lady, Mrs. Sherifat Aregbesola, represented by Mrs. Kafayat Oyetola, wife of the Chief of Staff, expressed joy at the development and promised that after this major step, her advocacy would begin neighbourhood to neighbourhood campaign.
Female genital mutilation (FGM) comprises all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.
According to the W.H.O, FGM has no health benefits, and it harms girls and women in many ways. It involves removing and damaging healthy and normal female genital tissue, and interferes with the natural functions of girls’ and women’s bodies. Generally speaking, risks increase with increasing severity of the procedure.
Immediate complications can include:
- severe pain
- excessive bleeding (haemorrhage)
- genital tissue swelling
- infections e.g., tetanus
- urinary problems
- wound healing problems
- injury to surrounding genital tissue
Long-term consequences can include:
- urinary problems (painful urination, urinary tract infections);
- vaginal problems (discharge, itching, bacterial vaginosis and other infections);
- menstrual problems (painful menstruations, difficulty in passing menstrual blood, etc.);
- scar tissue and keloid;
- sexual problems (pain during intercourse, decreased satisfaction, etc.);
- increased risk of childbirth complications (difficult delivery, excessive bleeding, caesarean section, need to resuscitate the baby, etc.) and newborn deaths;
- need for later surgeries: for example, the FGM procedure that seals or narrows a vaginal opening (type 3) needs to be cut open later to allow for sexual intercourse and childbirth (deinfibulation). Sometimes genital tissue is stitched again several times, including after childbirth, hence the woman goes through repeated opening and closing procedures, further increasing both immediate and long-term risks;
- psychological problems (depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, low self-esteem, etc.).