A recent conversation with someone on twitter reminded me of the issue of Female Genital Mutilation in Nigeria. The lives of women are difficult all over the world and the constant struggle to protect the integrity of our bodies is a never-ending battle. Recently, in the United States, a concentrated effort to destroy Planned Parenthood, an organization that provides low-income women access to gynecological health services, has just ended. Although this episode ended in a win for American women, reproductive rights everywhere else still leaves much to be desired.
Further south, in Nigeria, girls as young as a month old, are fighting for a chance to live normal and productive lives. 140 million of them must face a life devoid of sexual pleasure. Mutilating the private parts of girls is as old as time, and it refuses to go away. The lives of women are made increasingly dangerous as the practice often leads to various gynecological conditions such as abscess, cysts, excessive growth of scar tissue, UTI, painful sexual intercourse, hepatitis, reproductive tract infection, pelvic inflammatory diseases, infertility, painful menstruation, chronic urinary tract obstruction, obstructed labor, increase risk of death during childbirth and HIV infections. These girls are fighting a culture that insists that they are second-class citizens and that they do not deserve the full protection of the laws of their countries. This culture tells them right from birth that they do not deserve full sexual freedom, that their genitals are offensive and that mutilating some parts or the entire thing is the only way to protect their cultures. It is overwhelming, disconcerting, and heartbreaking.
Recently, Nigeria, boasted the dubious honor of the highest absolute case of FGM practices in the world with 25% of the 140 million estimated cases of FGM happening in Nigeria. While many organizations, with the support of the federal government, are working to change the hearts and minds of those who enforce this practice, there is no federal law prohibiting this act. I must point out that we have made great strides, 5 states in the country have passed laws forbidding this practice, and there are fantastic organizations in the country producing results in the rural areas, but it is not enough, as the practice is still pervasive in the country.
Those who insist on this horrific practice claim that it protects the chastity of their daughters by making any sexual contact unbearable. Some insist that it is an integral part of their cultural practices and therefore must continue. However, this constant requirement for girls to pay dearly for the sexual pleasure of the men in their lives, and the need for social integration at the expense of half of the population is unsustainable and evil. While all these justifications are valid goals, it comes at the terrifying cost to little girls whose skin are cut, torn and sewn together in a crude manner that she often pays for it for the rest of her life. It is unfair for girls to pay with their bodies and sometimes with their lives to win societal acceptance. Our daughters should get the same opportunities to enjoy the full joys of a productive life, that we reserve for our boys. Girls should not be forced to live with diseases as a direct result of this barbaric act.
We call on the Federal Government of Nigeria to take action to stop this horror. The National Assembly must pass a federal law forbidding this practice in Nigeria. We must create a movement of young people committed to protecting the health of our daughters. Our cultures light the path to grace; they cannot and should not stand in the way of our daughters.
Editor’s note: Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.