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FGM/C: An evil promoted by tradition?

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Posted: Mar 26, 2016 at 3:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Anthonia  Duru, Lagos.

For over 60 years, Chief Isaiah Fayomi the Alaga of Onikola (chairman of circumcisers) in Ile-Ife land has been in the trade of circumcising both male and females. In 1987, Fayomi also introduced his wife Christiana Fayomi into the business.  When a team of the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFP) with some selected journalists, who were on a campaign against Female Genital Mutilation/ Cutting (FGM/C) in Nigeria, recently visited the ancient Town of Ile-Ife in Osun State.


They all met with Fayomi, he explained how he inherited the trade from his forefathers. When asked what fascinates him about the trade, the octogenarian answered, “I think that question ought to be directed to my fore-parents but unfortunately, they have gone to the great beyond.”


Fayomi has since stopped the trade. He informed his guests he stopped mutilating and cutting girls since it became a crime. “I am scared of government officials who may come over to arrest me, I don’t see anything wrong in the practice.” He said.  According to Christiana Fayomi, “we have no reason for the act as it is a tradition. But because of the orientation I now have about the dangers attached to FGM\C so I stopped.”


She further said that she “didn’t really know the negative impacts but I am very sure those who kicked against the act can’t be wrong. I don’t know of circumcisers who still mutilate girls in this community but I am sure we still have some who are still in the business.”Mrs. Fayomi said an average of 50 FGM/C were done daily and there was never a casualty.


She also explained that the law against FGM\C has reduced the economic value attached to it, but God has been faithful since she stopped the practice in terms of meeting her needs. She also explained the medical precaution taken on the tools used (scissors). She said: “We boil these instruments in hot water, add disinfectant, potassium and that is all. We circumcise even pregnant women when we were still in the trade.”  Mrs. Fayomi said that the ability of the wound to heal within the stipulated healing time, which heals between the period of three to five days is all that matters.


Like Madam Sadiat Babatunde a trader at Oja-Titun located in Ile-Ife, who was circumcised by Baba Fayomi, a lot of superstitions and beliefs were created to sustain the practice. Babatunde however still believes it is a tradition that should be maintained. “I think it is right thing to do. I have a small cousin who recently was scratching her gentilia, since they stopped circumcising female in this town, we had to take her to another town and the girl is very okay now. If we had not done that, she will be promiscuous and aside that I believe there is an organism on the female genital which should be removed if we really want the best for our girls,” Babatunde argued while defending the age-long injustice against womanhood.

It has been established medically the itching Babatunde spoke about in that scenario was linked to infection of the vagina and would not have happened if proper care of the private part had been taken.


Ile-Ife often regarded as the cradle of civilization in Yoruba land still holds on to age-long cultural practices and beliefs like FGM/C, even the elites are not exceptions to this cultural pressure in the ancient town. People came from neighboring towns like Modakeke, Ede, Iree, Gbongan, Ibadan and Lagos to patronize Fayomi and his wife in this cross-cultural and cross-religious ritual when they were still fully into the practice. Osun State, according to report, ranks among the highest amongst places where FGM\C is still predominant despite the enforcement of the law to curb it by former President Goodluck Jonathan on May, 28, 2015.


UNICEF has defined Female Genital Mutilation as the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or any other injuries to the female genital organ for non-medical reason. Women go through lots of health and physiological challenges as a result of FGM/C. The upholders of FGM\C argue that the removal of the female genitalia contributes to the cleanliness and purity of women.


Research has revealed that the practice is more predominant in the Southern part of Nigeria. Osun, Ebonyi and Ekiti States are said to top the list of those involved in the practice. The girls are usually circumcised between ages three and seven.


National President of Inter-African Committee on Harmful Traditional Practices, Prof. Modupe Onadeko, at the Forum which was held earlier at Oshogbo said the act is linked to history and religion and is regarded as a ritual or a must for both male and female. Onadeko said in a lot of communities, the term circumcision is being linked to the boy child alone but in truth the ritual is also performed on females too but never to be discussed. Onadeko like other discussants at the forum agreed that there are severe pains, serious bleeding, trauma, problems with urinating after this act or even the right to an enjoyable sex and most especially problem at child birth.


With all these disadvantages, it was agreed that it is saddening to still have this practice active in these communities. “It should be known that there is a law that was signed into law on the very last day of the former President of Nigeria, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, against female circumcision, it is a crime! But it is also bad to know that there is no good follow up on the persecution of parents who still practice  Female Genital Mutilation as FGM\C is now being done underground.” They agreed.


There are many factors that allows FGM\C to thrive in some communities in Nigeria. In many cultures, FGM/C is a primary condition for marriage. No man in FGM practicing areas marries an uncircumcised woman in fear of breaking and or respecting the local social norms.


Also, the payment of the bride price to a girl’s parents depends on a woman fulfilling the traditional norms of the community – FGM/C being the most important one. This is a sort of invocation of tradition to insist on the continuity of the practice.


All these are caused by ignorance of sexual and reproductive health. And it is often influenced by parental and maternal grandmothers who come over to take care of their grandchildren after birth.


Sex is never pleasurable for survivors of FGM/C. It suppresses women sexuality, according to those affected. 39 communities spread across five states in Nigeria have publicly denounced FGM/C despite the fact that the act is still rampant.