The United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, has raised alarm over the rising cases of female genital mutilation and cutting (FGMC), in Imo State.
Statistics reveal that 68 percent of Imo women are affected by this sordid and outlawed practice. Also research shows that seven out of every 10 women in Imo State live with the effects of FGMC. FGMC not only violates the sexual/reproductive health/right of a woman/girl, but also endangers their sexual/reproductive health.
UNICEF Consultant for Imo and Ebonyi States, Mr. Benjamin Mbakwem, revealed this during a two-day training programme organized in Owerri, by the National Orientation Agency, NOA, in collaboration with UNICEF, for Community Champions, drawn from some communities in Owerri Municipal, Owerri West, Ehime Mbano, Ideato North and geared towards eliminating FGMC.
Mbakwem lamented that the practice still persists, even among educated parents, despite the subsisting law against FGMC, consequently resulting in many pregnant women undergoing prolonged labour and extreme difficulty in giving birth normally.
Mbakwem however assured that UNICEF was working assiduously to ensure total elimination of FGMC practice by 2030, when the sustainable development goals must have been achieved.
In the same vein, the State NOA Director, Mr. Vitus Ekeocha, described FGMC practice as “very harmful and has several health and psychological effects on women”. Given its prevalent practice in Imo, UNICEF and UNFPA are collaborating with the Federal Government and other agencies to fight the malaise.
Female genital mutilation is not a “regional issue,” or a problem only for women in developing nations. This abuse affects more than 200 million women and girls around the world and is even practiced in the United States where, recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found more than 500,000 girls are a risk.
FGMC is a cultural practice—a tradition meant to keep girls pure and chaste. Some cultures mutilate babies at birth. Others perform the mutilation as a coming of age ceremony: a right of passage from childhood into adulthood.
Female genital mutilation can cause lifelong health problems from infections to depression and infertility. Women who are cut are less likely to finish school and more likely to be victims of child marriage and abuse.
Survivors of FGMC—of which there are more than 20 million globally—are at higher risk for infection, infertility, complications during birth, and depression. What’s more, the practice tells women that their value as a human is predicated upon their attractiveness to men. FGMC doesn’t allow for individuality. It tells women there is only one way to be normal, beautiful, and desirable—and that is to have their bodies mutilated in order to fit one specific ideal.
In 2016, the United Nations named gender equality as one of their Sustainable Development Goals. A goal which cannot be achieved without definitively ending female genital mutilation.
Fighting against inequality means fighting against body shaming, against unfair gender expectations, and against the idea that women are worth nothing more than their appearance.
Ending female genital mutilation lies at the heart of women’s empowerment, giving women a basic and fundamental choice to protect their health and their future. Thankfully, women are now standing together and advocating for their rights as never before.