EDITORIAL: It is time to put an end to female genital mutilation

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The harmful practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is one of the much harm done to women, especially the girl child in today’s modern world. The procedure involves partial or complete removal of the external female genitals. Africa accounts for majority of FGM done worldwide while most are recorded in Nigeria.

27% of Nigerian women between the ages of 15 and 49 have been victims of FGM, as of 2012.Various organisations, both local and international have called for legislative approach to stop the act, this led to President Goodluck Jonathan signing a law banning FGM in 2015.

In spite the legislation, parents in the country have gone as far as patronising medical personnel to perform FGM on their daughters.

According to the National Demographic Health Survey (NDHS), not less than 20% of Nigerian women age 15-49 have been circumcised. The survey also revealed that 7.0% of circumcisions carried out on girls age 0-14 and 8.6% of women age 15-49 were carried out by medical professionals with majority of female circumcisions carried out by traditional circumcisers.

We wonder why medical personnel who are expected to be more enlightened on the dangers associated with FGM are actively participating in this act we can only describe as barbaric.

The government may be committed to putting an end to FGM through formulation of policies and legislations, yet we are of the opinion that if medical personnel who are expected to implement these policies engage in the contrary, the rights of the girl child are still not guaranteed.

We are not unaware of the National Policy on the elimination of FGM (2020 – 2024) that mapped out roles for health workers, health regulatory bodies, professional health associations and other stakeholders to prevent FGM in Nigeria; nevertheless, there should be punitive measures for health workers that engage in FGM.

We therefore advise that Federal Ministry of Health, the various States Ministries of health, professional bodies in the healthcare sector and nongovernmental organisations should partner to create wide sensitisation and awareness creation on the need to permanently put an end to FGM.

There should also be frequent capacity building programmed for health workers and most importantly, there should be surveillance systems either by government or professional bodies to detect such practices amongst medical personnel. The full provision of the Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) law that prescribed sanctions against persons implicated in FGM and its medicalization should be implemented.

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