ASSESSMENT OF FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION IN NIGERIA
1.1 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) also known as Female Genital Cutting (FGC), Female circumcision, or Female Genital Mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) is defined by the World Health Organization (2007) as “all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organ for non-medical reasons. The practice of FGM is one of the most significant health and human right issues in the world (UNICEF 2005). Thorpe (2002) on his part describe Female Circumcision as excision, where part of the labia minora and the majora are stitched together and a hole left to allow the urine and menstrual blood to escape. In a similar vein, Amnesty International (1997) states that Female Circumcision is the removal of all or part if the labia minora and cutting of the majora to create raw surfaces which are then held firm by a collar over the vagina when they heal.
Although the exact origin of Female Genital Mutilation cannot be stated. There are some evidence suggesting that it originated from ancient Egypt (WHO 1996). An alternative explanation is that the practice was an old Africa rite that came to Egypt by diffusion. According to UNICEF (2005) the majority of FGM cases are carried out in 28 Africa Countries. In some countries (e.g Egypt, Ethiopia, Somalia and Sudan), prevalence rate can be as high as 98 percent in other countries such as Nigeria, Kenya, Togo and Senegal, the prevalence rates vary between 20 and 50 percent. It is more accurate however to view FGM as being practiced by specific ethnic group, rather than by a whole country as communities practicing FGM straddle national boundaries.
Until the 1950s FGM was performed in England and the United States as a common treatment for lesbianism, masturbation, hysteria, epilepsy and other so called “female deviances” (Reymond, 2007). In a study in Kenya and Sierra Leone it was revealed that most protestants opposed FGM while majority of Catholic and Muslims supported it continuation. (Ali, 2007). Also there was a direct correlation between a woman’s attitude towards FGM and her place of residence, educational background, and work status. (Mohamud, 2008). Demographic and Health Survey indicates that urban women are less likely than their rural counterpart to support FGM. Employed women are also less likely to support it. Women with little or no education are more likely to support the practice than those with a secondary or higher education. Data from the 2004 Sudanese Survey (of women 15 to 49 years old) show that 80 percent of women with no education or only primary education support FGM, compared to only 55 percent of those with Senior Secondary or higher schooling (Ali, 2007).