The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has called for more proactive measures to end Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Imo.
Victor Atuchukwu, the fund’s Child Protection Specialist, Enugu Field Office, made the call at a one -day awareness meeting of the Imo State Technical Committee on FGM held in Owerri on Saturday.
Atuchukwu, who decried the obnoxious practice, which persisted in some communities across the country, urged relevant stakeholders to be passionate in the crusade against the act, to protect the rights of the girl-child and her future.
FGM is a procedure performed on a woman or girl to alter or injure her genitalia for non-medical reasons. It most often, involves the partial or total removal of her external genitalia, a violation of girls’ and women’s fundamental human rights.
In many societies where FGM is performed, it is a deeply entrenched social norm, and reasons behind the practice vary.
In some cases, it is seen as a rite of passage into womanhood, while others see it as a way to suppress a woman’s sexuality.
Many communities practice genital mutilation in the belief that it will ensure a girl’s future marriage or family honour. Some associate it with religious beliefs, although no religious scriptures require it.
The UNICEF child protection specialist, therefore, called on government at the federal, state and local government levels to strengthen measures toward the elimination of the practice.
He charged the Imo Government to evolve sustainable programmes toward tackling the practice “as UNICEF funding of the programme would end by the end of the year.
“Victims of FGM in Imo between the ages of 12 and 14 are on the increase and this requires drastic measures to be tackled.
“Imo must rise to the challenge and evolve its own enduring programme to tackle this form of violence against the girl-child because funding from UNICEF may not last long from now.”
The Chairman, Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) in Imo, represented by Dr Anthony Eweputanna, said regulatory agencies were being engaged to stop the indulgence of some nurses and midwives in FGM, while patent medicine dealers were being trained on Gender-Based Violence (GBV).
She called for townhall meetings, which should involve UNICEF, NMA, midwives and clergymen from both major religions, to address the issue of medicalisation and the elimination of FGM.
She added that village heads should be placed on surveillance to checkmate the ugly practice.
The Commissioner for Women Affairs and Vulnerable Groups, Mrs Nkechinyere Ugwu, who declared the meeting open, said the state government enacted the FGM Prohibition Law 2017, and was working to ensure the Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) Act is domesticated in the state.
She, however lamented that “in spite of the prevailing supportive legal and policy framework to end FGM, many survivors do not have access to essential social services.
“This is due to the emphasis on the physical consequences of FGM and the neglect of the psychological impact.” (NAN)