Female genital mutilation traumatic, anthropologist says

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Abieyuwa Abeh, a social anthropologist, has said that Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), was a traumatic experience that “robs girls of happiness, peace, health and mental stability”.

“Women, who go through that experience, suffer psychological trauma for life,” Abeh told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), on Wednesday in Abuja.

Abeh, a “FGM survivor”, spoke against the backdrop of the Oct. 10 World Mental Health Day set aside by the UN.

FGM refers to procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injuries to the female genital organs for cultural or other non-medical reasons.

“FGM is a societal violence on girls and women because it is approved and perpetrated by the communities themselves.

“Every day, about 6,000 women and girls are mutilated. Worldwide, over 200 million girls and women are living with FGM and its complications.

“It is important to know that FGM is not some strange thing that some strange people do. It is part of a continuum of violence against, and sexual control of women, girls and non-binary people by the global patriarchy.

“It is also important to know that though FGM is a global problem, it is indeed a Nigeria problem which is being ignored,” she fumed.

The social anthropologist said that parents were not aware of the emotional, physical and sexual trauma women and girls go through.

Abeh declared that no girl-child deserved any harm associated with the horrible traditional practice, and stressed the need for the government and the world at large to break the cycle of violence against women and girls by giving them a voice.

She said that there was the need to empower FGM survivors to speak up and seek help.

“Many societies regard FGM as a religio-cultural rite; this is wrong because FGM is a brutal and harmful practice to girls and women as it damages their sexual and reproductive functions,” she said.

The anthropologist advised women to educate girls to make them autonomous and smart enough to make informed choices regarding which cultural practices to adhere to.

Arguing that justice begins at home, she said that there was a need to make FGM a global priority, in the same way the global community responds to other global epidemics.

She quoted World Health Organisation (WHO), as saying that women, who have undergone FGM, were likely to have complications during childbirth and may die in the process.

“It is important for women to tell their doctors if FGM was performed on them so that appropriate care could be arranged for them and their babies.

“It takes a village to raise a child. In the case of FGM, it also takes a village to harm a child.

“To end FGM and save girls, we need to involve everybody – girls themselves, boys, men, women, elders, chiefs, officials, religious leaders and cutters,” she said.

Abeh reiterated that more support was needed for survivors in various forms, by the government and other stakeholders, including security protection for survivors, as well as resources to support their health and emotional wellbeing.

She urged government to be committed to working with religious leaders, health workers and citizens to respond to adaptations to the practice which continued to violate women’s rights.

NAN recalls that on June 2, in Vancouver, Canada, stakeholders the world over, gathered to discuss what was needed to accelerate ending FGM by 2030.

The event brought grassroots voices at the centre and worked to strengthen unified communal practices to support the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5.3.

The SDG focuses on how to eliminate harmful practices such as child, early and forced marriage, and female genital mutilation.

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