by Anthonia Okoli

Sustainable Development Goal 5 of the 2030 Agenda is about ending violence, and discrimination against women and girls and making sure they have equal opportunities as men and boys in all aspects of life. This goal calls for policies for women, and participation by women in political, economic and public life.

In 2015, the government of Nigeria signed the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act which listed FGM as a harmful traditional making it a matter of policy that girls are not mutilated.

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) comprises all procedures that involve the partial or total removal of external genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.  

FGM is a form of violence against women and children which is frequently practiced as traditional rites across many different cultures. Often as a part of traditional beliefs, FGM is wrongly practiced as a means to beautify women sexually and equally wrongly assumed to preserve virtue.  

Many different forms of Female Genital Mutilation are practiced across cultures.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has classified FGM into four types, all of which are practiced in Nigeria.

FGM Type 1 is defined as the partial or total removal of the clitoris and/or the prepuce (Clitoridectomy). The subgroups of Type 1 FGM are: type 1a, removal of the clitoral hood or prepuce only; type 1b, removal of the clitoris with the prepuce. 

FGM Type 2 entails the partial or total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora, with or without excision of the labia majora (excision).  Subgroups of Type II FGM are: type 2a, removal of the labia minora only; type 2b, partial or total removal of the clitoris and labia minora; type 2c, partial or total removal of the clitoris, labia minora and labia majora. 

FGM Type 3 involves the narrowing of the vaginal orifice with creation of a covering seal by cutting and appositioning the labia minora and/or the labia majora, with or without excision of the clitoris (infibulation). Subgroups of Type III FGM are: type IIIa, removal and apposition of the labia minora; type IIIb, removal and apposition of the labia majora.

FGM Type 4 is also known as unclassified and involves all other harmful procedures to the female genitalia for nonmedical purposes, for example, pricking, piercing, incising, scraping and cauterization. The FGM Type 4 also includes the practice of “massaging” or applying petroleum jelly, herbal concoctions or hot water to the clitoris to desensitize it or pushing it back into the body, which is common in many parts of Africa including Nigeria.

FGM is mostly carried out by traditional circumcisers, who may have other roles in the community, such as Traditional Birth Attendants. In other instances, willing medical professionals are be sought out by parents to have the procedure carried out on their daughters.

FGM has no known health benefit, and is harmful to girls and women. It involves altering, removing and/or damaging otherwise healthy female genital tissue.  

For more information about FGM you can visit http://new.endcuttinggirls.org/ or https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/female-genital-mutilation.   

The practice of FGM continue to prevail for reasons including; Respect for Tradition, Rite of Passage, Social Convention, Marriageability, Virginity, Fertility, Chastity and Faithfulness, Cleanliness, Femininity, and Religion.   

These reason; chastity, marriageability, etc, spring from the obvious disparity in the rights of women as compared to men. In other words, they are rooted in gender inequality.

For example, a girl is cut to purpotedly keep her chaste for a man that would marry her years later, a man whose chastity no one considers or questions.

Also consider that in some cultures, one of the motivations for cutting for the woman to have minimal sensations during sex, so she does not become unfaithful.

In cases where a woman may have undergone infibulation, some cultures make an event of her marriage night, it would be the night she get’s defibulated and disvirgined. Cut, sewn and cut again for the man’s pleasure.

All of these are shaped to favour the man’s interests with neglible considerations of the harmful effects caused by the practice.

It is my strong believe that achieving gender equality: when women and men can have the same rights and opportunities in any sector of society, both socially and economically should be everyone’s priority. #EachForEqual.

To achieve gender equality, an integrated effort of key players both in public and private sectors, is required, with the government assuming the head boy role. For the purpose of today’s topic, I’d be highlighting only the roles the government should be mandated to play in achieving a gender balanced world.

The roles of the governmeent in achieving gender equality can be summarized in five parts; unlocking the economic potential of women, balancing unpaid care work, increaing legal rights of women, increaing political representation and ending violence against women.

The McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) research in 2015 found that globally there are 655 fewer women than men in the labour market.

The government is a major employer of labour and can have a significant impact on women’s employment and economic status by using considerate employment practices that considers the gender roles of women like child birth and maternity.

The government can make policies that ensure that private sectors provide equal opportunities for women as men and that they have a gender balanced workforce.

Ultimately, the government can ensure policies and regulations that create a gender-neutral environment for labour employment, rewards and promotions.

Laws and policies that ensure paid and compulsory paternity and maternity leaves, increase in tax relief for women and child care subsidies should be legislated by the government to encourage a gender balanced labour market.

Holland a country dedicated to attaining gender parity explains, through the government website, that the government is committed to promoting equal rights, opportunities and responsibilities for men and women.

One of the primary objectives of the country’s policy is to strengthen the economic independence of women and to ensure that more and more women have jobs and so are independent.

Governments must take action to improve female representation in elected, administrative and appointed office at all levels in and in all institutions.

Women should have right of inheritance of lands and bonds. The state government can ensure women’s equal access to land, economic and natural resources.

The Governmemnt can establish mechanisms to make it easier for women to obtain legal documents like citizenship for their foreign spouses upon marriage, provide legal aid services that support women in exercising their rights, and guarantee women’s participation in land governance institutions and policy-making processes.

The government should fully mainstream a gender perspective into local legislation, urban planning and policy-making in order to tackle the multiple barriers to women’s empowerment. Only in these ways will women and girls be able to play an equal role in the economic, social, political and cultural life of our cities.

Governments should also be on the frontline of tackling violence and harmful practices against women in every sphere.

1 in 5 women between the ages of 15 and 49 have reported having suffered physical or sexual violence from a partner and many nations are not covered by specific laws to protect women.

Government should ensure the creation and maintenance of public safe spaces, as essential tools in tackling violence against women.

Governments have an important role to play in identifying women and girls affected by violence and providing them with the appropriate support and services to escape it and rebuild their lives.

The 2015 VAPP Act is an example of a tool enabled by the government to curb FGM in Nigeria. Attached is a link to a video of how this helps.

Gender equality is a fundamental human right, it is a prerogative for a peaceful and sustainable world and the world’s governments have the front role seat.

Feel free to comment your feedbacks and ask questions. Thanks for joining me on this episide of our weekly conference. Check out our website www.endcuttinggirls.org for more information and transcripts of previous conferences.