The International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation was celebrated on February 6, this day was initiated in 203 by the United Nations to increase awareness of the eradicate female genital mutilation. Our correspondent, Olutayo Irantiola, spoke to the Dr Mrs Abimbola Idowu, one of the advocate against Female Genital Mutilation and herein is our excerpt of our discussion-
PDC: What is Female Genital Mutilation?
DAI: This is the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, it could be injury to the female genital organ for non-medical reason.
PDC: At what age do girls get mutilated?
DAI: Different cultures have different times of mutilating the girls, it usually starts at about age 4 and it extends up to the age of puberty.
PDC: What part of the female anatomy that is mutilated?
DAI: There are four types of mutilation- these are the total removal of the clitoris; removal of the clitoris and labia minora; removal of all parts of the labia minora, majora and clitoris; while the last one is the piercing of the clitoris or labia, cauterization of the clitoris and cutting into the vagina to widen it.
PDC: Is there any way to reverse the mutilated part of the body?
DAI: There is no way to reverse the mutilated part as it is severed and definitely it will leave the girls and women with scars for a lifetime.
PDC: What are the side effects of Female Genital Mutilation?
DAI: There are a lot of negative side effects to Female Genital Mutilation, some of these are recurrent urinary and vaginal infection; chronic pain, infertility, bleeding, epidermoid cyst, difficult labour and psychological impact. Others are abnormalities in female sexual function- it causes dyspareunia and lack of sexual desire; it is a major risk factor for dysmenorrhea, obstructed labour and post-partum hemorrhage.
PDC: Is it a peculiar practice in Africa or its done in other parts of the world?
DAI: The practice spreads across various parts of Africa- Western, Eastern and Ethiopia & North-Eastern Africa, particularly Egypt and Ethiopia, it is worthy of note that nearly half of the cases mentioned globally is done in these two countries. Also, some parts of Asia and the Middle East.
PDC: According to WHO, there are over 200 million women and girls suffering from Female Genital Mutilation, what are the various reasons for this unhealthy practice?
DAI: Female Genital Mutilation is deeply rooted in cultural uniqueness and ideas about purity, gender disparity, and modesty status and honour. Its acts as a way to manage women’s sexual life by reducing their sexual desire, thus promoting chastity and fidelity.
PDC: Is the government supporting the cause of stopping Female Genital Mutilation?
DAI: Absolute yes, the government is supporting this cause through health education of the traditional birth attendants and traditional health healers and social media education.
PDC: Without exempting the custodians- traditional and cultural institutions, are they supporting the government and other NGOs in stopping Female Genital Mutilation?
DAI: Yes, most of the traditional rulers are seeing and understanding the danger of it as against the presumed importance to the cultural practice. However, we understand that cultural thresholds are usually been protected jealously but hopefully, it would keep reducing through various initiatives.
PDC: In this age when intertribal marriage is a norm, is there any helpline that can be called by younger women whose children are about to be mutilated?
DAI: Yes, there are many Human Rights organizations and Non-Governmental Organizations. For instance in Lagos, there is an NGO for child abuse, child assault and even women assault.
PDC: What are the ways of managing the situation by women who have been mutilated?
DAI: The management of women that have been mutilated include psychological therapy; surgery may be recommended for some women who are unable to have sex or have difficulty passing urine and pregnant women.