The Federal Government has inaugurated a ministerial ad hoc committee to eliminate Female Genital Mutilation in Nigeria.
The committee was inaugurated on Monday in Abuja by the Director of Family Health, Ministry of Health, Dr. Boladele Alonge.
She was represented by the Head of the Gender, Adolescent School Health and Elderly Care division of the ministry, Dr. John Ovuoraye.
Dr. Alonge said it was estimated that globally, at least 200 million girls and women have been subjected to the practice of FGM, adding that about 10 per cent out of the number reside in Nigeria.
“Although the Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS) reported a decline in the national prevalence of the practice between 2013 and 2018, some three million girls and women are still at risk,” she added.
The director defined FGM as all procedures involving partial or total removal of the female external genitalia or other injuries to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.
According to her, the act is a violation of the human rights of women and girls.
She said that the National Policy and Plan of Action for the Elimination of FGM provided a clear plan to guide the activities of different stakeholders in all fields.
According to her, it also provided a clear plan to guide systems and practices, including requests that attention be given to identified emerging hotspot states.
“The purpose is to ensure that men and women, boys and girls in all their diversity are well informed on the dangers of the practice and be fully involved in the elimination process of the barbaric custom.
“The committee is, therefore, expected to work with the national technical committee, which is the central coordinating and advisory body to the Federal Ministry of Health on issues of FGM toward implementing activities to eliminate the menace.’’
The Officer-in-Charge of the United Nations Population Fund, Nigeria, Dr. Christian Subam, , said according to UNFPA estimates in 2023, more than 4.3 million girls are at risk of FGM.
According to him, the number is projected to reach 4.6 million by 2030, as conflicts, climate change, rising poverty and inequality continue to hinder efforts to transform gender and social norms that underpin the harmful practice and disrupt programmes that help protect girls.
He said, “In Nigeria, the NDHS 2018 notes that 20 per cent of all women aged 15 to 49, have undergone FGM, while 19.2 per cent of girls aged 0 to 14 have undergone FGM.
“This is in spite of a decrease in the national prevalence from 25 per cent to 20 per cent (2013, 2018 NDHS).
“Nigerian women and girls represent 22 per cent of the 68 million at risk of being mutilated by 2030, which is 14.8 million women and girls.”
Sabum said that the medicalisation of FGM in Nigeria remained a threat and that there is a need for escalated awareness creation.
He said, “The UNFPA-led Joint Programme with UNICEF to eliminate FGM is the largest global and national programme to accelerate the abandonment of the harmful traditional practice and thereby, advance the rights, health and well-being of women and girls.’’
He reiterated UNFPA’s commitment to addressing the menace and the three transformative results which are; to end maternal deaths, end the unmet need for family planning and end Gender Based Violence and harmful traditional practices, including FGM.
“Let’s work together within the framework of the Sustainable Development Goals.
“The policies and laws of the land align to the strategic direction set out for all of us in the National Policy and Costed Plan of Action for Elimination of FGM in Nigeria (2021-2025) that was developed and inaugurated with support from the joint programme.
“The formation of this committee marks a momentous occasion, signifying the government’s unwavering commitment to protecting the rights and dignity of our girls and women,” he added.
Meanwhile, the Head of Women’s Rights and Protection, Ministry of Women Affairs, Mr. Iliyasu Zubair, said that the ministry had under the Social Component of its budget for 2023, earmarked N200 million to fight harmful traditional practices, which include FGM.
He said that FG took the largest share of the harmful practices as one of the health challenges in Nigeria.
He called on all stakeholders to collaborate to bring an end to the harmful traditional practice, saying, “We all know the damage the practice of FGM has caused to the female gender, from childhood to adulthood and how it also affects families and marriages.
The Head, Sexual and Gender-Based Violence Response/Gender Unit, Ministry of Justice, Mrs. Yewande Gbola-Awopetu, said the ministry is aware that prosecution is key to ensuring the deterrence of violence against girls children and women.
Represented by the Legal/Gender Desk Officer, Temitayo Lawal, she said that prosecution would ensure that perpetrators know that the government meant business.
She said, “We are working to ensure effective prosecution and ready to work with relevant stakeholders to strengthen the mechanism for response to this vile practice, reduce and ultimately eliminate FGM in Nigeria.
“As we are all aware, the Nigerian government has taken steps to provide a legal framework for the protection of women from FGM through robust human rights provisions in the 1999 Constitution, as well as the Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) Act 2015.
“The Nigerian government is adopting these three-pronged approaches.
“Section six of the VAPP ACT 2015 specifically provides for the prohibition of FGM with a penalty not exceeding four years imprisonment or a fine not exceeding N200,000 or both for anyone found guilty of performing FGM or engaging another person to perform it.”
She, however, said that the focus in the Ministry of Justice is to ensure an increase in the level of awareness and implementation of these laws at the federal, state and local government levels.
The 11-member committee consists of members of the Family Health Department in the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Women Affairs, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Information and Culture and the Ministry of Youth and Sports Development.
Others are the Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning, National Human Rights Commission, The Nigeria Police, UNFPA and UNICEF.