By Ademola Adebisi

Across the world, over 200 million girls and women have undergone at least one of the four forms of female genital mutilation.

Of this 200 million, 10% are Nigerians and they are people we have at one time or the other come across in our daily endeavor.

This whole number is an enormous considering the population distribution of Nigeria.

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is defined as “all procedures that involve the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or any other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons”.

In other words, Female genital mutilation (FGM) is any procedure that causes injury to the female genitals without medical indication.

The World Health Organization (WHO), classifies FGM into four broad types, and subgroups, based on the anatomical extent of the procedure, and they are all practices in Nigeria: …

Type I: partial or total removal of the clitoris and/or the prepuce (Clitoridectomy).

Subgroups of Type I FGM are: type ia, removal of the clitoral hood or prepuce only; type ib, removal of the clitoris with the prepuce.

Type II: 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 IIa, removal of the labia minora only; type IIb, partial or total removal of the clitoris and labia minora; type IIc, partial or total removal of the clitoris, labia minora and labia majora.

Type III: narrowing of the vaginal orifice with creation of a covering seal by cutting and positioning 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. Reinfibulation is covered under this definition. This is a procedure to recreate an infibulation, for example after childbirth when defibulation is necessary.

Type IV: unclassified – all other harmful procedures to the female genitalia for nonmedical purposes, for example, pricking, piercing, incising, scraping and cauterization.  

a. 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. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f0-dYD9cYKo&t=80s  @WHO

b. … Moreover, the removal of or damage to healthy genital tissue interferes with the natural functioning of the body and may cause several immediate and long-term genitourinary health consequences. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f0-dYD9cYKo&t=80s  @WHO

The practice of FGM – prevalent in 30 countries in Africa and in a few countries in Asia and the Middle East – is now present across the globe due to international migration. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f0-dYD9cYKo&t=80s  @WHO

The centuries-old practice of FGM is a social norm, buttressed by underlying gender structures &power relations and deeply rooted in tradition. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f0-dYD9cYKo&t=80s

Where it is widely practiced, FGM is supported by both men and women, usually without question, and anyone that does not follow the norm may face condemnation, harassment, and ostracism.

a. Where FGM is a social norm; it is difficult for families to abandon it without support from the wider community.

b. In these communities, it is often practiced even when it is known to inflict harm upon girls because the perceived social benefits of the practice are deemed higher than its disadvantages.

For more information on basic facts about FGM visit www.endcuttinggirls.org or our YouTube Channel for wonderful videos https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCyB8f8IM3k2xTsKNfUZf9wg/videos?view_as=subscriber (Drama, Songs and Documentaries on FGM).

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 (SAW).

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 religious leaders don’t play their role 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.

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

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

Massive End FGM information circulating among religiousfaithfulswill 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 full support and 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.

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.

Less is known however about the involvement of religious leaders (Christian and Muslim) in Nigeria.

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

b. 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.

c.…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.

d…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. Hence, there is need for enhancing the capacity of religious leaders (Christian and Muslim) across LGAs, Towns, Communities and states in Nigeria.  @raufaregbesola

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

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

At this point, I will stop the conversation so we can reflect on the key points discussed as I entertain any questions.

Thanks for being part of the conversations today. Join us every other Thursday 5-7pm.

Visit our www.endcuttinggirls.org for more info and updates on FGM, and kindly follow the handle “@Endcuttinggirls” on all social media platforms.

Together we will end FGM in this Generation.