Female Genital Mutilation thrives in Oyo despite laws banning it

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is still being practised in parts of Oyo State despite the global outcry against the practice, a report issued by a Nigerian organisation working on youth and environmental health has said.

The outcome of the findings, acknowledged by a local and an international body, was made available to PREMIUM TIMES by the Executive Director, Value Re-orientation for Community Enhancement (VARCE), Ademola Adebisi.

It showed the prevalence of FGM in Ibadan North-east, Ibadan North, Akinyele and Afijio local government areas of the state.

“It was in the course of my investigation that I discovered that those who hide their children or even run away with them so as not to undergo this barbaric act are compelled to bring the children back home to carry out rites or risk being excommunicated and ostracised or even called bastards.

“A community leader also told me with confidence that some are brought back from wherever they are, diabolically, just to carry out genital mutilation on their girl child as that is the custom.

”These are ignorant of the fact that some children get infected due to the usage of one blade for all the children which can eventually lead to their death,” Mr Adebisi said.

“Though I was also told that some community leaders in Oyo West, Orelope and Kajola Local Governments of Oyo State due to the prevalent rate of FGM in their respective LGAs separately and independently made a public declaration against FGM in December 2018, this evil act has not subsided in the area as they still do it secretly,” he added.

The report also stated that urgent action is also required in the state, especially in the local government areas ”where this practice is going on unabated to save the future of many innocent girls”.

“For instance, in Aroro Village, Idi Obi, a lady, Adeagbo Adebimpe, said she was tricked into coming home from the northern part of the country to see her ailing mother with her two daughters. And the girls were forcefully mutilated without her knowledge and consent.

“People who have suffered the same fate started sharing horrible experiences of their girls who were cut, some with the consent of their ignorant father and some without. While it was later established that FGM is secretly being carried out with or without the consent of the parents, survivors of this dastardly and barbaric act all have only tales of woes to tell,” he said.

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Strains of FGM

The report also explains the technicality of the types of FGM practised.

”FGM varies and is classified into four types namely, the Clitoridectomy, which involves the removal of the prepuce, with or without cutting all or part of the clitoris; Excision, where the clitoris is removed, and there is total or partial removal of inner lips of the vagina; Infibulation, which involves the removal of part or all of the external genitalia and the vagina opening is stitched after narrowing it allowing for a small space where urine and menstruation can pass through.

“Infibulation is the most dangerous FGM type, because later surgeries are usually done on the women before and after sexual intercourse and childbirth to open and close the vagina; Unclassified type, which includes piercing, scrapping, pricking or making incision on the clitoris or/and the vagina lips, using harsh substances and herbs on the vagina or into it and stretching of the clitoris or lips of the vagina,” the report read.

The report said unlike male circumcision, ”this act causes physical injury and leaves a life-long emotional scar and pain for girls and women who survive it.”

Alarming

In the 2018 fact sheet of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) on the prevalence of FGM in Nigeria, Osun State is 1st with 77 per cent, Ebonyi, 2nd with 74 per cent, Ekiti 3rd with 72 per cent, Imo 4th with 68 per cent and Oyo State 5th with 66.

In December 2018, PREMIUM TIMES reported that 13 per cent of women – about one out of every ten – who have been genitally mutilated in Nigeria was cut by medical professionals.

This new trend is being referred to as the “medicalisation of FGM.”

“Despite the increasing campaigns against the barbaric act, many medical professionals have been engaging in the act, thus causing a setback to the eradication process of the practice,” Acting Country Representative, UN Population Fund (UNFPA), Eugene Kongnyuy, said.

What The Law Says

Section 6 of the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act, also known as the VAPP Act, prohibits harmful traditional practices like FGM.

It was signed into law by former President Goodluck Jonathan in May 2015.

Also, section 26 of the Oyo State Child Rights Law signed in 2006 dictates that anyone who subjects a female child to genital mutilation is liable to pay a fine of N20,000 and a jail term not exceeding two years.

Moreover, Section 9 of the Oyo State Violence Against Women law (VAWL) of 2016 states that anyone who performs FGM is liable to pay a fine of N100, 000 or a jail term not exceeding four years or both.

Also, according to VAWL, anyone who attempts the act or anyone who incites, aids, abets or encourages the process is liable on conviction to two years imprisonment or N80, 000 fine or both.

‘FGM in all LGAs but we’re trying our best’- NOA

In an interview with PREMIUM TIMES, the NOA’s Assitant Director of programmes in Oyo, Olatunji Samuel, ‘confirmed’ VARCE findings but said the agency ”is trying all it could to reduce the rate in the state.”

According to him, the act is practised in every local government, but recently, ”the rate is waning due to the level of intervention by the agency.”

“For now, the government has signed into law the bill for violence against women, so it has been passed into law, and it has been signed. So, we are only waiting now that it has to be domesticated in all local governments.

“The next thing now is for them to print the copies for circulation, the copies are those laws where Female Genital Mutilation is meant to be an offence, and whosoever violates it now, there are sanctions for it, there are penalties.”

Mr Olatunji said the state government had commenced partnership with United Nations International Children’s Emergency Funds (UNICEF) to aid its fight against FGM.

Also, speaking on the indicted communities in the VARCE report, the official explained that there are ongoing plans for a ‘public declaration’ there.

“Ibadan North, we have not done declaration there. We are left with Ibadan North, Ogbomoso, Ibarapa North… those are the six ‘prevalent’ local governments in Oyo State. But out of those six now, we have done three, so, we are hoping that with more support, we will get to all the local governments.”

The NOA is the body saddled with the responsibility of communicating government policy, promoting patriotism, national unity, and development in Nigerian.

Judges, ignorant- UNICEF

Meanwhile, the Oyo State team leader for UNICEF/UNFPA, Dare Olagoke, said ”the ignorance of the judiciary is a factor in the prevalence of the unsafe practice”.

“Dissemination of the law is the issue in Oyo. The last state technical committee meeting that we had, we discovered that most judges in Oyo State do not even know that there is a law that prohibits FGM in the state.

“We had big issues with them because the police will tell you that it is a civil case and that the civil defence officers should be the ones to make the arrest. The civil defence will push it back to the police. We don’t know who handles who, the jurisdiction and all of that.”

Speaking on the stance of the law, Mr Olagoke explained that ”there are two different laws against FGM in Oyo with two different penalties.”

“That one (Violence Against Women Law of 2016) states punishment for the perpetrators, circumciser, parents and anyone that supported the process,” he explained.

He called for the ‘harmonisation’ of the two laws to help combat the inhumane act.

“The two laws are ‘owned’ by the state, talking about a single offence with different punishments. So, how do we argue it out? One says one N100,000 fine or four years imprisonment. The other is saying two years imprisonment or N20,000 fine.”

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