The United Nations Children’s Fund has ranked Nigeria third worldwide in cases of Female Genital Mutilation.
The UN body made this known in a statement on Wednesday to commemorate the International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM.
It said with an estimated 19.9 million survivors, Nigeria accounts for the third highest number of women and girls who have undergone FGM globally.
In the statement in Makurdi, the Benue State capital, noted that FGM was on the rise among young Nigerian girls aged 0-14.
According to UNICEF it had become a source of worry that the “rates have risen from 16.9 per cent in 2013 to 19.2 per cent in 2018.”
It said: “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.
“While the national prevalence of FGM among women in Nigeria aged 15-49 dropped from 25 percent in 2013 to 20 percent in 2018, prevalence among girls aged 0-14 increased from 16.9 percent to 19.2 percent in the same period, according to Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey, 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.
“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.
“And as COVID-19 continues to close schools and disrupt programmes that help protect girls from this harmful practice, an additional two million cases of FGM may occur over the next decade.”
The statement quoted the Nigeria representative of UNICEF, Peter Hawkins, as saying: “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. 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.”
While noting the disparity of the practice across Nigeria, UNICEF added: “State prevalence ranges from 62 percent in Imo to less than one 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.
“The Movement for Good’ will reach five million adolescent girls and boys, women – including especially pregnant and lactating mothers – men, grandparents, and traditional, community and religious leaders, legislators, justice sector actors, and state officials through an online pledge to ‘say no’ to FGM.
“The movement will mobilise affected communities for concrete action at the household level to protect girls at risk of FGM. It will challenge misconceptions on FGM and the discriminatory reasons it is practiced and break the silence around the practice together with communities.
“FGM is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women. It reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes and is an extreme form of discrimination against girls and women.”
Quoting Hawkins, the statement said: “It is nearly always carried out on children and is a violation of children’s rights. 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.”