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Gynaecologist warns against female genital mutilation

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Dr Maureen Umeh, a Gynaecologist at National Hospital, Abuja

Dr Maureen Umeh, a Gynaecologist at National Hospital, Abuja, on Monday, warned against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and called for its immediate halt.

Umeh gave the warning in an interview with our reporter in Abuja as the world marked the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation on Feb. 6.

She said the practice was a death trap and the procedure could lead to severe bleeding and urinary problems.

She added that “it can also lead to cyst, infection, infertility, complications in childbirth and increased risk of newborn deaths.”

According to her, FGM includes procedures that intentionally alter or cause injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.

“Female Genital Mutilation procedures involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia and can injure the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.

“FGM has no health benefits and it harms girls and women in many ways. It involves removing and damaging healthy and normal female genital tissue and interferes with the natural functions of girls’ and womens’ bodies.

“Most the time, it is done without anesthesia for a child of tender age and the child is exposed to chronic pain, bleeding, sometimes leading to death.”

Umeh said that some women and children were exposed to immediate or long term complications such as severe pain, shock, bleeding, tetanus, urine retention, open sores in the genital region and injury to nearby genital tissue.

She said some women experienced painful intercourse, thereby requiring surgery in the clitoris.

“The long-term consequences can include recurrent bladder and urinary tract infection, cyst, infertility, increased risk of childbirth complications and newborn deaths.

“The woman goes through repeated opening and closing procedures of surgery, further increasing and repeating both immediate and long-term risks.”

The gynaecologist added that the procedure was mostly carried out on young girls sometime between infancy and age 15, and occasionally on adult women to avoid infidelity in marriages and reduction in sexual pleasures.

Umeh said the practice was common in the Western, Eastern and North-Eastern regions of Africa, in some countries in Asia and the Middle East and among migrants from these areas.

The practice was carried out by traditional barbers who often play other roles in communities such as attending to childbirths.

Umeh said FGM was internationally recognised as a violation of human rights of girls and women.

She explained that “it reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes and constitutes extreme form of discrimination against women.

“It is carried out on minors and is a violation of the rights of children. The practice also violates a person’s rights to health, security and physical integrity.

“It is also a violation to right to be free from torture and cruelty, inhuman or degrading treatment and right to life when the procedure results in death,’’ she said.

Umeh then called for public awareness on FGM and policy to totally stop the cruel practice in the country.

The theme for 2017 International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation is “Building a solid and interactive bridge between Africa and the world to accelerate ending FGM by 2030.’’

The day was celebrated to promote the abandonment of FGM and to engage communities to focus on human rights and gender equality.

The day was also to emphasise efforts toward societal dialogue and empowerment of communities to act collectively to end the practice and to address sexual and reproductive health needs of women and girls who suffer from its consequences.

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