FGM on the rise among young Nigerian girls, UNICEF warns
United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) has warned that female genital mutilation is on the rise among Nigerian girls aged 0-14, accounting for the third-highest number of women and girls who have undergone FGM worldwide.
According to the agency, FGM remains widespread in Nigeria. with the rates rising from 16.9 per cent in 2013 to 19.2 per cent in 2018, and an estimated 19.9 million survivors.
It also revealed that the national prevalence of FGM among women in Nigeria aged 15-49 dropped from 25 per cent in 2013 to 20 per cent in 2018, prevalence among girls aged 0-14 increased from 16.9 per cent to 19.2 per cent in the same period, according to 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.
In a statement commemorating 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 at the weekend, UNICEF noted that as COVID-19 continues to close schools and disrupt programmes that an additional 2 million additional cases of FGM may occur over the next decade.
“Millions of girls are being robbed of their childhoods, health, education, and aspirations every day by harmful practices such as FGM,” said Peter Hawkins, UNICEF Representative in Nigeria.
“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,” said Peter Hawkins.
Across Nigeria, disparities in the practice exist. State prevalence ranges from 62 per cent in Imo to less than 1 per cent in Adamawa and Gombe. The prevalence of FGM is highest in the South East (35 per cent) and South West (30 per cent) and lowest in the North East (6 per cent).
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 5 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 practised and break the silence around the practice together with communities.
FGM is recognised 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. It is nearly always carried out on children and is a violation of children’s rights. The practise 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,” said Peter Hawkins.