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Lagos, CHAI to sanction erring professionals on genital mutilation

By Oluwatosin Areo
09 November 2017   |   3:40 am
Director, Family Health and Nutrition, LSMH, Dr. Folashade Oludara, said this unethical practise, which is mostly carried out on young girls between infancy and age 15 has no health benefits.

PHOTO: Public Radio International

The Lagos state Ministry of Health (LSMH) has declared that any health professional who is involved in any form of female genital mutilation (FGM) would be sanctioned. This move, the Ministry said is geared towards stemming the rise in the involvement of health workers in FGM, which about one in five girls have been subjected to.

Director, Family Health and Nutrition, LSMH, Dr. Folashade Oludara, said this unethical practise, which is mostly carried out on young girls between infancy and age 15 has no health benefits.

Oludara, at a press briefing organised by Child Health Advocacy Initiative (CHAI) last week on “Ending female genital mutilation in Nigeria” added that FGM cannot be safe and there is no medical justification for the practice even when the procedure is performed in a sterile environment by a certified practitioner.

She stated that FGM, which was traditionally the specialization of traditional birth attendants, has been introduced to modern health practitioners and community health workers.

Oludara added that the Ministry is passionate about reducing mortality rate and this has called for the need to take into legislation laws that are geared towards ending female genital mutilation.

“Lagos state is among the states that have laws against FGM. The Federal law ‘Violence against Persons (Prohibition) Act (VAPP), 2015’ and the Child Rights Act (CRA) 2004 is also against the practice in Nigeria,” she added.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), female genital mutilation is defined as all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external genitalia or other injury to the female genital organ for non-medical reasons. It is estimated by the WHO that over 40 million girls and women in Nigeria have undergone FGM, with the nation having 41 per cent prevalence. WHO says Nigeria has the highest absolute number of FGM cases in the world.

The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) also reported that 28 per cent of FGM cases are carried out by health professionals.

Oludara urged health workers to resist social pressure to perform FGM and serve as advocates for prevention in the communities they serve.

Executive Director of Child Health Advocacy Initiative (CHAI), Alounge Lola has called for stringent enforcement of these laws against FGM and urged traditional rulers to be advocate of change in their communities.

“There must be focused group discussions in every community until this practice is eliminated. This is a very critical element for the crusade to eradicate female genital mutilation in Nigeria,” she emphasised.

Lola, who described FGM as barbaric and an act of murder, said the major reasons for the persistence of the practice in Nigerian communities are rooted in culture and tradition, which has done more harm than good.

She noted that female circumcision is highest in the South-West and South East Nigeria, in spite of the geopolitical zone’s high literacy and awareness rate, adding that this report should rouse the reality facing grassroots activities in Nigeria.

According to reports from CHAI, Osun state records the highest prevalence at 77 per cent, Ekiti at 72.3 per cent, Oyo at 65.6 per cent; Ebonyi at 74.2 per cent, Imo, 68 percent and Lagos 45 per cent, while the North-East Zone has the lowest prevalence of 2.9 per cent and the state of Katsina in North-West Zone records the lowest prevalence at 0.1 per cent.

Director of the Lagos State Ministry of Women Affairs, Olusola Falana opined that female circumcision constitutes violence against women and urged future generations to stoutly resist the culture.

“In spite of its cultural significance, the practice must be discontinued because of its potential for both short-term and long-term medical complications, as well as harm to the reproductive health and infringement on women’s rights,” Falana noted.

On the dangers associated with female genital mutilation, she said that women may experience severe bleeding, chronic pelvic infections, implantation dermoid cysts and keloids, abscesses and genital ulcers, excessive scar tissue formation, shock, infection of the reproductive system, decreased sexual enjoyment with anorgasmia and psychological consequences, such as post-traumatic stress disorder.

“Other risks include acute urinary retention and menstrual problems, infertility, later surgery (defibulation and reinfibulation), Vesico Vaginal Fistula (VVF) or Recto Vaginal Fistula (RVF),” she added.

Falana said the mental and psychological agony attached with FGM is deemed the most serious complication because the problem does not manifest outwardly for help to be offered.

“The young girl is in constant fear of the procedure and after the ritual she dreads sex because of anticipated pain and dreads childbirth because of complications caused by FGM. Such girls may not complain but end up becoming frigid and withdrawn resulting in marital disharmony,” she queried.