Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has called for a national legislation against Female Genital Mutilation.
Obasanjo made the appeal in his keynote address delivered on his behalf by Dr. Femi Majekodunmi at the International Summit on Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting at the Mapo Hall in Ibadan, Oyo State on Monday.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the summit was organised by the Circumcision Descendants Association of Nigeria (Oloola).
FGM comprises all procedures that intentionally and specifically alter or cause injury to female genital organ.
Obasanjo described FGM as a heinous crime against womanhood, the community and humanity.
He said FGM is a deeply rooted practice in Africa, Middle East and Asia where over 200 million girls and women have been affected and more than three million girls are estimated to be at risk annually.
He said: “A degradation of one is degradation of all; FGM has no known benefits, it is known to be harmful to girls and women in many ways.
“It is a violation of the rights of women and young girls who have no say on the matter.”
According to Obasanjo, FGM is entrenched in the culture of many people in Nigeria and there is presently no federal law against it.
He said: “FGM has been declared as a violation of human rights by the World Health Organisation, and the UN General Assembly in 2012 adopted a resolution on the Elimination of Female Genital Mutilation.
“Nigeria is a signatory to international laws against FGM and only nine states in the federation have thus far legislated against it.
“There is therefore an urgent need for total eradication and abolition of FGM in Nigeria and ultimately globally.”
The Chairman of the Circumcision Descendants Association of Nigeria, High Chief Abiola Ogundokun, said about 20 million women between the age 15 and 49 have undergone FGM in the country.
Ogundokun said the National Demographic Health Survey reported that Osun State has the highest FGM prevalence rate followed by Ebonyi and Ekiti States.
He said: “Study shows that FGM in some instances is used to generate income for practitioners under the guise of preserving and continuing values and rituals.
“In some communities, it is even allowed under death if the woman was not circumcised as practised in cultures where it is not done after death.”
Ogundokun called on circumcision practitioners to collaborate with other organisations to prevent the persistence of the dangerous act.
The wife of the Osun State Governor, Sherifat Aregbesola, represented by Kafayat Oyetola, called on her counterparts in Oyo, Ekiti and Lagos States to champion advocacy and sensitisation campaigns to stop FGM.
Aregbesola said: “Findings indicate that the practice is most prevalent in Yorubaland especially in Osun, Oyo, Ekiti and Lagos States.
“Given the statistics arising from the findings, when we leave this summit, we should commence in a vibrant way, a neighbour to neighbour campaign to stop FGM.
“This will help to create awareness about the dangers that FGM constitutes to individuals and to our society.
“We have to start now as delay means more and more of our girls would be subjected to this health danger.”
Dr. Comfort Momoh, an international expert in FGM, said it could cause cysts, infection, infertility and complications in childbirth.
Momoh said FGM also caused psychological, physical and could ultimately lead to death.