UNFPA declares war on genital mutilation

A worker with some of the tools used for FGM in Africa

FILE PHOTO: A worker stands behind tools used for FGM in Africa

FILE PHOTO: A worker stands behind tools used for FGM in Africa

Ahead of the United Nations international day for zero tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has declared efforts at sensitisation successful, in spite challenges yet to be surmounted.

The UNFPA Country Representative in Nigeria, Dr Diene Keita, on Friday in Abuja that the campaign has been successful, in spite of no prosecution of offenders.

This is especially so with the enactment of Female Genital Mutilation and Cutting (FGMC) legislation in states covered by the joint UNFPA/UNICEF programme on FGMC in Nigeria at national and in Imo and Oyo states.

“The UNFPA support to states and national advocacy efforts to the legislative houses of assembly through its political partners and coalition of CSOs improved discussion and attention on improving legislative framework for FGMC,” she said.

According to her, this advocacy advances action and influence health peer rivalry among political and government actors at this levels to accelerate efforts to enact legislation on FGMC.

A UNFPA 2017 estimates that one in four females between the ages of 15 and 49 have undergone genital mutilation in Nigeria.

Keita said efforts to encourage implementation and enforcement are yet to yield the expected dividend as there has been no known public prosecution of offenders and perpetrators of FGMC.

Yet, according to her, the campaign against FGMC in Nigeria, on the platform of the joint FGMC programme, is succeeding.

She said: “At present, 1,050 communities have declared abandonment of FGMC since the commencement of the joint programme in 2014.

“The programme has reached a total of 329,878 persons with information about the need to abandon FGMC and 103,755 persons, including pregnant and nursing mothers, accessed health services through capacity enhancement for health workers on the treatment and management of FGMC survivors,” Keita said.

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She added that since the commencement of the campaign, the joint programme has successfully supported the enactment of the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) and FGMC legislation at the national and state levels.

“The campaign has succeeded in improving engagement and discussions at community levels with women, men, boys and girls.

“The programme supported the development of a manual with the National Human Rights Commission to enable adequate reporting of FGMC indicators in templates for routine human rights country reports.

“The programme also succeeded in integrating FGMC global indicators into the National Health Information Systems (NHIMS) and continues to support the expansion of FGM/C indicators to reflect in the modules in the National Development Health Survey (NDHS) and the Multi-Sector Indicator Survey (MICS).”

According to Keita, the UNFPA/UNICEF joint programme is encouraging the change of language at the community level from “Circumcision” to “Mutilation” to align with the WHO definition of FGMC adopted by the joint programme.

She said the word ‘circumcision’, normalises the act of FGMC and enables communities’ tolerance and condonment of the practice.

“It fails to situate FGMC in the context of rights violation, but instead keeps it at the margin of cultural practice is beneficiary to both individuals, families and communities.

“This further moralises FGMC practice in communities instead of criminalising the practice and contributes to further classification of the practice as a good social norm that can be used to modulate sexual relations and maintain fidelity.

“On the contrary, the language of ‘Mutilation’ expresses the fact that FGMC is a violation of human rights of women and girls – right to health, life, bodily integrity, freedom from torture and so on.

“It focuses attention on the fact FGMC practice is wrong, criminal and invasive and efforts should be made to end the practice,’’ Keita said.

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