Female Genital Mutilation in Nigeria and the VAPP Act – Joy Ayeni

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In 2018 I watched a short movie titled Little Blood in which my Friend Olufe starred in. It got me thinking, should Female Gender Mutilation (FGM) be a thing? Should it even be a subject of discussion?

Again, in February 2020, I had this conversation with some older relatives and one of them said FGM was a necessary tradition practiced during her time and which she’s aware  is still being practiced. Prior to the last discussion, I had argued that such barbaric cultural practice was never found in Ekiti State where I come from. I was wrong.

FGM or female circumcision is defined as the ritual cutting or removal of some or all of the external female genitalia[i]. This practice is found in Africa, Asia and Middle East. FGM is a traditional, cultural practice which according to the practitioners, is done to prevent the female child from being promiscuous, since it is believed that circumcising the girl child reduces her sexual desires thereby ensuring that she is faithful to her husband.

Addressing the risk associated with FGM, the World Health Organization (WHO)[ii] stated that this practice can lead to variety of long terms complications in the health of women WHO listed the long term risk associated with FGM to include pain, infections (chronic genital infection, chronic reproductive tracts infection, urinary tract infection), painful urination, vaginal problems, menstrual problems, excessive scar tissue, sexual health problems, childbirth complications, perinatal risks and mental health problems.

Despite the above health risks, study has shown that female circumcision is still being practiced across Nigeria and mostly in the Southern States.The above practice has continued despite the fact that there is presently a legislation which specifically seeks to abolish FGM by criminalizing the practice. One wonders then why there is still report that this practice still takes place in various parts of the country.

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The Violence Against Person (Prohibition) Act, 2015

The Violence Against Person (Prohibition) Act (VAPP) 2015 which is enforceable in the Federal Capital Territory Abuja, and which has been domesticated by states such as; Lagos, Osun, Ondo, Ekiti, Bayelsa, Ogun, Delta, Ebonyi, Oyo, Imo, Edo, Cross-River, Rivers and Anambra is a legislative step as a result of agitations for protection of persons against different forms of violence. Violence, both at the home front and the larger society. This piece of legislation has also come as a succor for the girl child against FGM as it prescribes punishment for such practices.

The relevant provisions of the VAPP Act in this regard are reproduced below:

S 6(2) – A person who performs female circumcision or genital mutilation or engages another to carry out such circumcision or mutilation commits an offence  and is liable on conviction to a term of imprisonment not exceeding  4 years or to a fine not exceeding N200,000.00 or both.

S 6(3) – A person who attempts to commit the offence provided for in subsection (2) of this section commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a term of imprisonment not exceeding 2 years or to a fine not exceeding #100,000.00 or both.

S 6(4)  – A person who incites, aids or counsel another person to commit the offence provided for in subsection (2) of this section commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a term of imprisonment not exceeding 2 years or to a fine not exceeding #100,000.00 or both.

Recommendations

It is recommended that:

  1. Every state that is yet to domesticate the VAPP Act should immediately domesticate the law to curb the prevalence of this inhuman practice.
  1. There is need for stakeholders to create more awareness, especially in the rural areas in states that have been identified as high risk in the practice of FGM. In such areas, there should be sustained grassroot campaign especially in churches, mosques and other places of worship, markets, and individual sensitization.
  1. Government at all levels should ensure that there are agencies put in place to ensure the implementation and enforceability of the provisions of the VAPP laws as it relates to FGM. They should also work hand in hand with NGOs.
  1. There is need to reinforce the move to eradicate illiteracy as education plays important roles in development.
  1. More training of the police and other enforcement agencies on the enforceability of VAPP laws as it relates to FGM should be carried out.
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Joy Ayeni

Joypreciousayeni@gmail.com

[i] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/female_genital­_mutilation

[ii] https://www.who.int/sexual-and-reproduction-health/health-risks-of-female-genital-mutilation

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