Before giving up power to Muhammadu Buhari, outgoing Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan signed a bill setting the path for the criminalisation of female genital mutilation (FGM).
More than 125 million girls and women around the world are estimated to have undergone some form of FGM, with the majority concentrated in 29 countries, all but two in Africa, according to a 2013 study by the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef). FGM, also known as female genital cutting or female circumcision, is a procedure in which all or most of the external female genitalia is either removed or otherwise surgically altered for nonmedical reasons. The procedure has no documented health benefits and isconsidered a violation of the human rights of girls and women by international bodies like the World Health Organization.
Senate passed the bill on the 5th of May 2015. It will also have other impacts. Men will be prohibited from abandoning their families without proper financial support.
19.9 million Nigerian women are thought to have been the victims of the practice.
The young girls and women who undergo this procedure are at risk of serious infections, infertility, death in childbirth and more. Not to mention the emotional scarring of undergoing the procedure
Nigeria’s decision to outlaw female genital mutilation (FGM) sends “a powerful signal not only within Nigeria but across Africa,”according to J. Peter Pham, the director of the Africa Centre at the Atlantic Council.
“Nigeria, just because of the sheer size of its population, has one of the highest absolute number of cases of FGM in the world,” he said, adding that the bill now effectively criminalizes a significant percentage of FGM on the African continent. “One cannot overestimate the impact of any decision by Nigeria [on the continent].”
These new laws are triumphs for all women, and the hope is that they will encourage neighbouring African countries to do the same. Although this ban has been a longtime coming, it is a sign that women are gaining more ground in the battle towards ending FGM, forever.
Image Source: Doctor’s Office NG