The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund, UNICEF has warned that female genital mutilation is on the rise among Nigerian girls aged 0-14.
Female genital mutilation, FGM, remains widespread in Nigeria, with an estimated 19.9 million survivors, Nigeria accounts for the third highest number of women and girls who have undergone FGM worldwide, as rates have risen from 16.9 per cent in 2013 to 19.2 per cent in 2018, a “worrying trend,” according to UNICEF.
While the national prevalence of FGM among women in Nigeria aged 15-49 dropped from 25 per centin 2013 to 20 per centin 2018, prevalence among girls aged 0-14 increased from 16.9 per cent to 19.2 per centin the same period, according to NDHS figures.
An estimated 86 per cent of females were cut before the age of 5, while 8 per cent were cut between ages 5 and 14.
According to UNICEF Representative in Nigeria, Mr. Peter Hawkins millions of girls are being robbed of their childhoods, health, education, and aspirations every day by harmful practices such as FGM.
“The practice of FGM not only has no health benefits , it is deeply harmful to girls and women, both physically and psychologically, as it is a practice that has no place in our society today and must be ended, as many Nigerian communities have already pledged to do”.
Across Nigeria, disparities in the practice exist. State prevalence ranges from 62 percent Imo to less than 1 percent in Adamawa and Gombe. The prevalence of FGM is highest in the South East (35 percent) and South West (30 percent) and lowest in the North East (6 percent).
UNICEF is initiating a community-led movement to eliminate FGM in five Nigerian states where it is highly prevalent: Ebonyi, Ekiti, Imo, Osun and Oyo. Nearly 3 million girls and women would have undergone FGM in these States in the last five years.
Mr. Hawkins explained that, FGM is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women, as it reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes and is an extreme form of discrimination against girls and women.
He noted that the practice also 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, in instances when the procedure results in death.
“The International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM reminds us that we are not alone in this work and that we need to accelerate efforts especially with families and communities to achieve a Nigeria safe for girls and women and finally free of FGM.”
As the world today commemorates the International Day of Zero Tolerance of FGM, 68 million girls worldwide were estimated to be at risk of female genital mutilation between 2015 and 2030. As COVID-19 continues to close schools and disrupt programmes that help protect girls from this harmful practice, an additional 2 million additional cases of FGM may occur over the next decade.