It is estimated that over 200 million girls and women worldwide are living with or at risk of suffering the associated negative health consequences of FGM  

Every year 3 million girls and women are at risk of FGM and are therefore exposed to the potential negative health consequences of this harmful practice.  

FGM has no known health benefits, and those girls and women who have undergone the procedure are at great risk of suffering from its complications throughout their lives.  

The procedure of FGM is painful and traumatic, and is often performed under unsterile conditions by a traditional practitioner who has little knowledge of female anatomy or how to manage possible adverse events.  Moreover, the removal of or damage to healthy genital tissue interferes with the natural functioning of the body and may cause severe immediate and long-term negative health consequences.  

The practice of FGM is prevalent in 30 countries in Africa and in a few countries in Asia and the Middle East, but also present across the globe due to international migration  

FGM practice is deeply rooted in a strong cultural and social framework. It is endorsed by the practicing community and is supported by loving parents who believe that undergoing FGM is in the best interest of their daughter.  

The beliefs sustaining the practice of FGM vary greatly from one community to another, although there are many common themes. However, the primary reason is that it is part of the history and cultural tradition of the community.  

Despite its cultural importance, we need to acknowledge the fact that FGM is a harmful traditional practice that violates the rights of girls and women.  Therefore, FGM has to be eliminated.  

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Globally, FGM is practiced among some adherents of the Muslim, Christian, Jewish faiths and some animists’

However, FGM is erroneously linked to religion. FGM it is not particular to any religious faith, and predates Christianity and Islam. At the community level, those who carry out FGM offer a mix of cultural and religious reasons for the practice.

Christians and Muslims alike erroneously believe that circumcision of girls prevents them from promiscuity and makes them more attractive for future husbands; mothers fear that their daughters cannot get married if they’re uncut.

The first reference to circumcision in the Bible is found in the Book of Genesis 17:10, in which God ordered Abraham to circumcise his sons. It reads “This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised. (Genesis 17:10)”

Female circumcision is not mentioned at all in the Bible and is rejected by Christianity for this reason. Moreover, whereas male circumcision does not mutilate the male sex organ, FGM damages the healthy female sex organ and deforms what God has created.  

Christianity also repudiates FGM because of its immediate and long-term adverse health effects and refutes claims that female circumcision protects a girl’s chastity before marriage. Christianity believes that virtue cannot be imposed but must be gained by spiritual growth.

The association of FGM with Islam has been refuted by many Muslim scholars, who say that FGM contradicts the “Do no Harm” principle of Islam. FGM is not prescribed in the Quran and is contradictory to the teachings of Islam.

Today, the Grand Mufti of Egypt Ali Gomar says: “FGM must be stopped in support of one of the highest values of Islam, namely “Accept no harm and do no harm to another.” in accordance with the commandment of the Prophet Mohammed.

Regrettably, some Christians and Muslims alike believe that FGM is compulsory for followers of their religion. Because of this flawed linking of FGM to various religions, especially Christianity and Islam, religious leaders have an important role to play in dissociating FGM from religion.

Religious leaders have the access, the power and the influence to change things. If we don’t have the support of religious leaders, as advocates, then it may be hard to stop FGM. The power of religion/religious leaders in shaping perceptions and influencing public opinion is well-known.

Religious leaders have led the way in tackling development, gender, and health issues, Religious leaders can also lead the way to ending FGM.

First and most importantly, Religious leaders should focus on de-linking FGM from religion among their congregations.

Furthermore, the capacities of these religious leaders can be built to speak out against FGM. This will enable them dissuade their members from the harmful practice. Explaining that girl children who do not undergo FGM grows up to be healthy women and no less female than girls who do.

Based on their influence, it would be easier for religious leaders to drum support from religious faiths against FGM.

Religious leaders can encourage their members to come up with drama episodes on the dangers of and the need to end FGM.

Religious leaders can encourage their youth to use social media to campaign against FGM.

Massive End FGM information circulating among religious faithfuls will strike up discussions about ending the harmful practice of FGM.

Religious leaders have the potential to fastrack the actualization of zero incidence of FGM dream across the globe.

If various religious faithful understand clearly that FGM is not linked to their religion, then many adherents will have a change of mind-sets.

Religious leaders (Christian and Muslim) are highly influential persons’ in the community and, therefore, their involvement will help to fast-track FGM total abandonment in Nigeria.

Religious leaders (Christian and Muslim) can play a key role in the prevention of FGM by sharing the information through sensitizing their members also regular interactions with families provide them with unique opportunities to share such information. Findings show that providing health education on FGM to people during consultation will go a long way to end cutting girls.

 Empowering the Religious leaders (Christian and Muslim) as advocate is therefore very important. This will make the members therefore to see the need to end cutting girls.  

It is assumed that Religious leaders (Christian and Muslim) can lead the campaign to  #endcuttinggirls with more passion. The campaign will be more impactful with Religious leaders (Christian and Muslim) coming on board. In changing the mindset of individuals/communities that still believe in and/or practice FGM and that all religious leaders (Christian and Muslim) should take action to end the practice, committed within or outside a denomination. Less is known however about the involvement of religious leaders (Christian and Muslim) in Nigeria.

Research suggests that there are several ways to win religious leader’s (Christian and Muslim) support as allies in FGM abandonment efforts.

First, training programs for religious leaders (Christian and Muslim), particularly those living in the areas where FGM is widely practiced, should focus on what FGM is, why it is practiced, its health impact and ways to prevent it.  Such trainings must also sensitize the religious leaders (Christian and Muslim) to the fact that FGM is a violation of girl’s and women’s right to health.   These religious leaders (Christian and Muslim), as a  focus of FGM abandonment programs, should be given the opportunity to reflect on their own beliefs and think critically about how these views may fuel the continuation of the practice. 

Having shared that enhancing the capacity of religious leaders (Christian and Muslim) to lead the campaign to end FGM in religious settings in Nigeria, we also understand that religious leaders (Christian and Muslim) need to come to the realization of its importance in ending FGM/C. Hence, there is need for enhancing the capacity of religious leaders (Christian and Muslim) across LGAs, Towns, Communities and states in Nigeria.  

In conclusion, religious leaders (Christian and Muslim) are major stakeholders in the fight against FGM/C and must be engaged.  

To learn more about the @endcuttinggirls Campaign, please visit for information.  You may also follow our social media handles on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube, using @endcuttinggirls

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