The Minister of Women Affairs, Mrs Pauline Tallen, says efforts are on to scale-up surveillance system and advocacy toward ending Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) practice in the country.
She made this known at a joint ministerial press briefing to commemorate the International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation in Abuja on Friday.
The day is marked globally every Feb. 6 to create awareness on the harmful practice and efforts toward eradicating it across the world, and has “No Time for Global Inaction: Unite, Fund and Act to End Female Genital Mutilation” as its theme for 2021.
FGM involves the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons, a practice that has no health benefits for girls and women, declared as violation of the right of the female gender.
The minister, therefore, said that the ministry, with support from partners, made remarkable progress in the crusade to eradicate FGM and other harmful practices in the country.
She cited the establishment of a surveillance system and mobilisation of FGM champions to deliver door-to-door household discussions with community groups in Oyo and Osun states in the year, adding that “we hope to scale up this coverage.”
Tallen, who described the practice as a violation of human right with no health benefits for girls and women, noted that it could cause adverse consequences on the mental, psychological and physical health of survivors.
She said that the Child Rights Act and the Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) Act, which had been domesticated in some states of the federation, would ensure that offenders were dealt with according to the law to serve as deterrent to others.
“For those who are not aware, Nigeria has in place, mechanisms to prosecute such offences,” she added.
Tallen, therefore, stressed the need to eliminate the practice to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) targets on health and well-being, quality education, gender equality, decent work and economic growth.
Ms Ulla Mueller, the Country Representative of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) in Nigeria, said the country represented 10 per cent of the 200 million girls and women that had experienced FGM.
Mueller added that the COVID-19 pandemic had affected the progress made toward achieving the SDGs goal five — ender equality and eliminating violence against women and girls.
She, therefore, stressed the need to empower women, work closely with men and boys, traditional and religious leaders, NGOs, CSOs, judiciary, law enforcement officers, media and others to eliminate FGM practice.
She noted that “we must also ensure equitable access to education, healthcare and employment opportunities to accelerate the elimination of FGM to contribute equitable social and economic development and ensure that no girl is left behind.”
Ms Rhoda Tyoden, the National President, International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) Nigeria, said “anyone who performed or engaged another to carry out FGM committed an offence punishable by four years imprisonment or a fine of N200,000 or both.”
Tyoden called for increased sensitisation to end the practice, which she described as “discriminatory and degrading as it violated human rights of a person.”
Dr Laraba Shoda, the National President of National Council for Women Societies (NCWS), reiterated the commitment of the council toward sensitising women and communities on the ills of FGM.
Lola Ibrahim, Founder, Women Against Violence and Exploitation (WAVE) Foundation, stressed the need to prosecute those who practice FGM to serve as deterrent to others.
Ibrahim, who is also a third generation survivor of FGM, says providing alternative source of income for local FGM practitioners will discourage the practice in the country.