The United Nations Children Education Fund and the Ekiti State Government have decried the increasing rate of Female Genital Mutilation practice in the state, saying it would take collective efforts of all stakeholders to curb the menace.
The UNICEF and Ekiti State Government stated this at the end of a stakeholders meeting of the State Technical Committee on FGM held in Ado-Ekiti on Sunday.
Speaking at the meeting, the UNICEF Consultant on FGM for Ekiti, Osun and Oyo States, Aderonke Olutayo, said UNICEF is joining the state government with technical supports in order to eliminate the practice from the society.
Olutayo commended the Ekiti State Government for its determination in putting in place the framework for the prosecution of those practising it, but suggested the need for legal and policy framework from the state government to curb the harmful practice.
She said the practice has reached about 72 per cent level in the state, noting that female children between the ages of zero and 14 are the victims.
At the same time, some communities still practice it on teenagers and adults, even up till marriage age.
The UNICEF Consultant identified cultural and traditional beliefs as being responsible for the practice, noting that some people see it as a family heritage, but which we must be stopoed.
Olutayo said: “Some of those who perform the genital mutilation are unskilled.
“They do it with primitive and unsterilised equipment and do damage to human parts.
“The World Health Organisation had a law prohibiting this practice and it has been domesticated in Nigeria, particularly in Ekiti State.
“I want to appeal that the laws must be implemented to protect the lives of our women.”
Declaring open the technical committee meeting, the Ekiti State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Olurotimi Ojo, decried the prevalence rate of female genital mutilation in the state.
The commissioner was represented by the Permanent Secretary in the ministry, Dr. Ayotunde Omole.
Ojo charged members of the committee to join hands with the government in eradicating the menace in the state, saying the practice, which is prevalent in the rural areas must be nipped in the bud with concerted efforts from officials of Primary Health Care because of their proximity to the grassroots.
He said over 72 per cent cases are reported in Ekiti State, ranking the state high in the prevalence of the harmful practice, and urged the stakeholders to join in the campaign against the act.
He pointed out that FGM had done more harm to women that had been cut, saying the victims are either carrying lifetime infectious diseases like HIV, barrenness, hemorrhage, broken home due to sexual non-satisfaction and other associated problems due to the cutting of their genitals.
The commissioner said the programme was meant to mobilise the younger generation against the practice and charged that the end to the practice should be now.
Ojo described genital mutilation as “a flagrant infringement of the rights of the female gender” and urged the government at all levels to stop the menace in the overall interest of motherhood.
The commissioner explained that the state had domesticated the law banning the practice in the state and warned that anyone caught still engaging in the practice would be prosecuted.
He charged the womenfolk, whom he described as “the real victims” to intensify their campaign against cutting of the female genitals to create more awareness.
In his remarks, the UNICEF Consultant on FGM/C for Ebonyi and Imo States, Ben Mbakwem, charged the participants to see the campaign against FGM/C as an activism to rescue women from an unprofitable traditional practice.
Mbakwem said all efforts should be mobilised to eliminate the practice in the State.
Also addressing the meeting, Olukemi Akinleye, the Desk Office on FGM in the state Ministry of Health, recalled an experience of a survivor of the practice that said she could not forget the psychological imbalance she always suffered each time she remembered the level of dehumanization being experienced by the victims.
Akinleye said those who practised the act were hiding under the myth that retention of the female clitoris can cause promiscuity and stillbirth, adding that it had been proven wrong by medical experts due to research.
The meeting was attended by stakeholders from the UNICEF, National Orientation Agency, Ministry of Women Affairs, the Nigeria Police, NSCDC, Media, trade union/professional organisations and Non Governmental Organisations among others.