A global movement with aim to achieve societal change through gender justice, Side by Side Movement has called on religious and traditional leaders to play active roles in the quest to end Female Genital Mutilation, FGM, saying that traditional and religious leaders have crucial roles to play alongside healthcare service providers.
A Co-Chair of the Movement, Rev Dr Isreal Akanji who made call on Monday at a press conference organised by the Movement to commemorate the international day of zero tolerance for female gentile mutilation in Nigeria, expressed concern that “in some settings, health care providers perform female genital mutilation due to the erroneous belief that it is safe when medicalised,” adding that the World Health Organization, WHO strongly urges health professionals not to perform such procedures.
Giving reasons why the practice must be stopped, Akanji said: “Female genital mutilation (FGM) is recognised internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women, it reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women.”
“It is nearly always carried out on minors and is a violation of the rights of children,” he said.
Giving more reasons why the Side by Side Movement supports the WHO in the advocacy for end to Female Genital Mutilation, Dr. Akanji said: “Female Genital Mutilation 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 when the procedure results in death.”
While commending the United Nations for the global support it has given to the need to end FGM, he emphasised the need for traditional leaders and institutions to give impetus to the efforts of the UN by putting an end to FGM.
Dr. Akanji explained that female genital mutilation is practiced for a variety of cultural reasons. According to him, FGM involves the cutting or removal of some or all of the external female genitalia, adding that it has no health benefit to the victim, but has well documented evidence of harm.
“FGM comprises all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical purposes.”
While saying that the practice is mostly carried out by traditional circumcisers who often play other central roles in communities, such as attending childbirths, he explained that immediate complications of FGM include hemorrhage, acute infection, bleeding of adjacent organs, violent pain resulting in serious shock, while later complications include vicious scars, chronic infection, hematic complications and obstetric complications among others.
The Side by Side Movement therefore called for adoption of more effective measures to combat FGM in the country. Dr Akanji who led the call said: “Female genital mutilation should be banned in Nigeria because of the following harmful effects: The fundamental goal of human society is the preservation of human rights, and it is our responsibility to safeguard human sustainability,” stating that research shows that women who has undergone FGM may have complication during caesarean section and child birth.
“In the case of Clitoridectomy, the principal and most obvious medical consequences is the elimination of the woman’s organ of sexual pleasure, which is the basis upon which the United Nations and most societies classify it as a human-rights-violation.
“Side by Side movement is strongly against all forms of gender injustice in Nigeria and we urge religious and traditional leaders to make deliberate efforts to stop gender injustice in Nigeria, especially female genital mutilation,” he added.
The Acting Executive Director, African Centre for Leadership, Strategy and Development, Mr. Monday Ogasah charged the Nigerian media to remain committed to the dissemination of information needed to create awareness that will end female genital mutilation in Nigeria. According to the Acting Executive Director, “advocacy is critical because female genital mutilation must be stopped in Nigeria.” He lamented that although the National Assembly passed into law, an Act which outlawed female genital mutilation in Nigeria, the practice is still carried out. He therefore stressed the point that “sensitization is the way to go” since regulatory framework has not been able to end the problem.
The Executive Director of the Centre for Human Rights in Islam, Prof. Mustapha Ismail who co-chaired the conference with Rev Dr. Akanji also called on stakeholders across board to join the advocacy for an end to FGM. While he explained that the three major religions, namely Islam, Christianity and Buddhism have no injunctions against male circumcision, he pointed out that Islam considers circumcision as healthy for only males, adding that males have so much to benefit from circumcision.