Activist against FGM, Ugwu Charles Egede, lists the Nigerian laws that prohibits female genital mutilation.
Understanding that laws against FGM, in Nigeria, are not necessarily meant to punish anyone rather to promote the health and welfare of women and girls.
Today, community-level public declarations and various level of consensus building on FGM abandonment are already being widely recorded among cutting communities in various states in Nigeria.
Going forward, a functional and accessible end-FGM legal framework is no doubt an important tool for eliminating this harmful traditional practice completely.
The enactment of the anti-FGM law, Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act 2015, which is being domesticated by various States, represents a milestone in the campaign to end FGM in Nigeria.
There is need to ensure that FGM-related legal services are not just in existence but also accessible by the end-users; FGM survivors or girls/women at risk of being subjected to the practice.
FGM refers to any procedure that involves “partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or any other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) has classified FGM into four types, and they are all practiced in Nigeria.
Type I FGM: 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 FGM: 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 FGM: 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.
Reinfibulation is covered under this definition. This is a procedure to recreate an infibulation, for example after childbirth when defibulation is necessary.
Type IV FGM: unclassified – all other harmful procedures to the female genitalia for nonmedical purposes, for example, pricking, piercing, incising, scraping and cauterization.
Type IV FGM 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 Nigeria, especially Imo State.
FGM is widely recognized as a harmful practice and a violation of the human rights of girls and women. It reflects deep-rooted discrimination against girls and women, profoundly entrenched in social, economic and political structures.
While de facto violent, the practice is perpetrated without a primary intention of violence. It is considered to be a necessary step to enable girls to become women and to be socially accepted, together with the rest of the family.
FGM functions as a self-enforcing social convention or social norm. Families and individuals uphold the practice because they believe that their group or society expects them to do so and they expect that they will suffer social sanctions if they do not.
Beside the health challenges, FGM also violates a series of well-established human rights principles, norms and standards.
Human rights principles violated by FGM includes:
1) Principles of equality and non-discrimination on the basis of sex,
2) Right to life when the procedure results in death
Other Human rights principles violated by FGM are:
3) Right to freedom from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
4) Rights of the child; and
5) Right to the highest attainable standard of health.
There Nigerian laws that prohibits female genital mutilation and I will elaborate on it below.. .👇
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Children(UNCRC), a human rights treaty which sets out the civil, political, economic social, health and cultural rights of children, also strives to protect children from FGM in Articles 19.
UNCRC Article 24: Countries should take all effective and appropriate measures with a view to abolishing traditional practices prejudicial to the health of children.
In Nigeria, there are national laws prohibiting the practice of FGM and other offences issues which violate the rights of Girls/Women such as the 1999 Constitution (as amended), Child Rights Act(2003) and Violence Against Persons Prohibition law (2015).
The Section 4 of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria (as amended) states that “No person shall be subjected to any form of torture, inhuman or degrading treatment” .
The section 11(B) of the Child Rights Act (2003) states that “No child shall be subjected to any form of torture,inhuman or degrading treatment”.
Violence Against Persons Prohibition Law (2015) states that ”a person who performs female circumcision or genital mutilation or engages another to carry out such, commits an offence punishable by 4 years imprisonment or to a fine of N200,000 or both.
In addition to the National Laws, we also State laws that prohibit the practice of FGM in the five states where the UNFPA/UNICEF Joint Programme on Eliminating FGM is taking place such as
1) Ebonyi State Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Law, 2018
other anti-FGM laws are
Imo state FGM (Prohibition) Law (2017);
Violence Against Women Law, 2016 (Oyo State);
Osun State Female Circumcision and Genital Mutilation (Prohibition) Law 2004; and
Female Circumcision (Prohibition) Law, 2002 (Ekiti State).
The availability of FGM-related legal services is important but also essential in ensuring the accessibility of services to persons subjected to FGM and/or persons facing the threat of undergoing the practice.
Firstly, In Nigeria where the culture of silence still surrounds FGM in many quarters, a lot needs to be done to encourage people to speak out when subjected or about to be subjected to this harmful practice.
The public needs to be aware that a survivor has the freedom and the right to disclose an incident to anyone.
Also, in Nigeria many women and girls who would need FGM-related services may not have the financial willpower to access such services.
Therefore to harmonize the process involved in accessing FGM-related legal services, all government and non-government stakeholders at various state levels need to come together and develop a bottom-up Standard Operating Procedures (SOP)&referral pathway.
These referral pathways, with Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), will serve for case management and by extension make easier the accessibility of FGM-related legal services.
These stakeholders and organizations must thereafter commit to disseminate the SOPs and referral pathways in communities where they operate to ensure knowledge and improve access of FGM survivors to services (including legal) and support.
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