Dr Yakubu Aliu, the Acting Head of the United Nations Population Fund in Cross River, says one out of every four Nigerian women between the ages of 15 and 49 have undergone Female Genital Mutilation.
Aliu told the News Agency of Nigeria in Calabar on Tuesday that the figures were based on the National Demographic Health Survey of 2013.
The expert also said FGM was more prevalent in the South-West, followed by the South-East and the South-South, adding that parts of the North-Central, North-East and North-West had the least prevalence in Nigeria.
He said: “The South-West based on the NDHS 2013 has an FGM prevalence rate of 56.9 per cent; South-East, 40.8 per cent; South-South, 34.7 per cent; North Central, 9.6 per cent; North-East, 1.3 per cent; and North-West, 0.4 per cent.
“In 2008, UNFPA and UNICEF developed a joint programme looking at the states that had a high prevalence in the South-West and South-East and found four states.
“Osun had the highest prevalence followed by Ebonyi, Imo and then Ekiti.’’
He said that the NDHS 2013 also showed that 15 per cent of Nigerian girls between the ages of 15 and 19 had also been mutilated.
According to the UNFPA official, the National Population Commission in 2014 reported that about 19.9 million women have undergone Female Genital Mutilation worldwide.
Aliu said that in Nigeria, 25 per cent of the women had undergone one form of FGM or the other.
He said that though there were wide regional variations, the reasons for the practice, being to prevent promiscuity and to ensure that the girls get married, were similar.
He said: “Here, there is a belief that if it is not done, the girl will be promiscuous and won’t be able to get married, these are just beliefs and have no scientific backing.
“There are about four types of FGM which range from just the cutting of the clitoris to cutting and stitching of the whole vagina, leaving just small spaces for urine and menstruation, these are outrageous.’’
Aliu said that the complications from FGM were enormous, ranging from bleeding, infection, constriction of the birth canal which prevents normal delivery and causes a massive tear and subsequent death.
He said FGM used to be done at home with razor blades and unsterilised tools although there is now a medicalisation of FGM.
He said: “They have now taken it to the hospitals where anaesthesia is given and the cutting is done by a medical professional.
“You will be surprised that people who undergo FGM are educated people, yet they subject their children and sisters to this obnoxious tradition.
“So, we are targeting the policymakers, traditional and religious leaders to ensure that this culture of FGM is abolished.
“I can tell you that there is a law now called Violence against Persons Prohibition Act which most states including states with high prevalence have domesticated.
“The United Nations categorically rejects violence against women which includes FGM, it is a violation of a woman’s human right and it is a violation of her health.
“This is why the UN has set aside a day in November for zero tolerance against gender-based violence.”
He called on policymakers, traditional and religious leaders to ensure that the VAP law was implemented and that young persons were educated on the hazards of FGM from childhood to adulthood.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that FGM is the removal of some parts or the whole of the female genital organs based on cultural or traditional beliefs.