By Deborah Musa, Abuja
The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) has expressed concern over the rise in cases of female genital mutilation (FGM) in Nigeria
Giving the statistics of an estimate of 19.9 million survivors, it said, Nigeria accounts for the country, with the third-highest number of Girls and women who have undergone female gender mutilation(FGM) worldwide
UNICEF disclosed that FGM is on the increase among Nigerian girls in the age gap from 0-14, with rates from 16.9 percent in 2013 to 19.2 percent in 2018, a development described as a “worrying trend.”
As the world marks the International Day of Zero Tolerance, UNICEF Nigerian representative, Peter Hawkins made known in a statement that UNICEF is embarking on a community-led movement to put an end to the ugly practice in five states, in Nigeria where it is highly prevalent
He said “UNICEF is initiating a community-led movement to eliminate FGM in five Nigerian states where it is highly prevalent: Ebonyi, Ekiti, Imo, Osun and Oyo. Nearly 3 million girls and women would have undergone FGM in these States in the last five years.
“The Movement for Good” will reach 5 million adolescent girls and boys, women – including especially pregnant and lactating mothers – men, grandparents, and traditional, community and religious leaders, legislators, justice sector actors, and state officials through an online pledge to ‘say no’ to FGM.
“The movement will mobilise affected communities for concrete action at the household level to protect girls at risk of FGM. It will challenge misconceptions on FGM and the discriminatory reasons it is practiced and break the silence around the practice together with communities.
Hawkins stated that the practice of FGM has no health benefits but rather, deeply harmful to girls and women and it is about time for efforts to be accelerated in creating an environment that is safe for girls and women
“The International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM reminds us that we are not alone in this work and that we need to accelerate efforts – especially with families and communities – to achieve a Nigeria safe for girls and women and finally free of FGM
“The practice of FGM not only has no health benefits – it is deeply harmful to girls and women, both physically and psychologically. It is a practice that has no place in our society today and must be ended, as many Nigerian communities have already pledged to do.”
“Across Nigeria, disparities in the practice exist. State prevalence ranges from 62 percent in Imo to less than 1 percent in Adamawa and Gombe. The prevalence of FGM is highest in the South East (35 percent) and South West (30 percent and lowest in the North East (6 percent).
“While the national prevalence of FGM among women in Nigeria aged 15-49 dropped from 25 percent in 2013 to 20 percent in 2018, prevalence among girls aged 0-14 increased from 16.9 percent to 19.2 percent in the same period, according to NDHS figures.
“An estimated 86 percent of females were cut before the age of 5, while 8 percent were cut between ages 5 and 14” Hawkins said
FGM is internationally perceived as a violation of the human rights of girls and women. It reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes and is an extreme form of discrimination against girls and women. It is nearly always carried out on children and is a violation of children’s rights. The practice also violates a person’s rights to health, security and physical integrity; the right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment; and the right to life, in instances when the procedure results in death.
Hawkins added, “Millions of girls are being robbed of their childhood, health, education, and aspirations every day by harmful practices such as FGM.”
68 million girls worldwide have been estimated to be at risk of female genital mutilation between 2015 and 2030. With the advent of COVID-19 which resulted in the close-down of schools and disruption of academic programmes that help protect girls from these harmful practices, an additional 2 million cases of FGM may occur over the next decade.