Nigeria bans female genital mutilation

[Content note: female genital mutilation (obviously)]

A new ban, passed in May and signed into law by outgoing president Goodluck Jonathan, outlaws female genital mutilation in Nigeria. The practice was banned worldwide by the U.N. in 2012 and already outlawed in several states within Nigeria, but the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act 2015 represents a nationwide commitment to the ban. The new law also outlaws abandonment of spouse and/or dependents without financial support.

“This is fantastic news and a landmark moment. We are now one step closer to ending this harmful practice,” said UK international development secretary Justine Greening.

As the most populous country in Africa, Nigeria’s decision carries significant weight, but it would need to be implemented effectively, said Mary Wandia, FGM programme manager of Equality Now. “With such a huge population, Nigeria’s vote in favour of women and girls is hugely important,” she said. “We hope, too, that the other African countries which have yet to ban FGM — including Liberia, Sudan and Mali, among others — do so immediately to give all girls a basic level of protection.”

Others stressed that the battle to end FGM in a generation was far from over, saying it was crucial that attitudes, as well as laws, were changed.

“It is crucial that we scale up efforts to change traditional cultural views that underpin violence against women. Only then will this harmful practice be eliminated,” said Stella Mukasa, director of gender, violence and rights at the International Center for Research on Women, writing in the Guardian.

While passing the law at all is significant and makes a clear statement about the government’s official position on FGM, the biggest steps remain enforcing the law and changing societal attitudes that lead to the procedure in the first place. While a 2013 study by UNICEF set Nigeria’s overall prevalence of FGM at 27 percent — moderately low among African nations that still practice it — a 2012 study showed a prevalence as high as 76 percent in some regions of the country, largely for reasons of traditional practice, superstition, and controlling a girl’s/woman’s sexuality — all attitudes that can be hard to change through health education or application of law in areas where law enforcement is inconsistent. According to the study, community-led efforts tended to be the most successful in reducing or eliminating FGM in an area — particularly efforts led by women who have been victims of FGM themselves and refuse to subject their daughters to such a terrible practice. According to UNICEF, 62 percent of Nigerian girls and women say that FGM should end, and now they have their government’s support in making it happen. Officially, at least.

Note: Discussion of male circumcision is welcome in the spillover thread.

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3 comments for “Nigeria bans female genital mutilation

  1. Angie unduplicated
    July 17, 2015 at 9:25 am

    Trigger for sexual violence.

    Gossip passed on from a holiday family gathering (and other, past times) indicates that FGM has been a problem in Southern Appalachia. The subject came up in the context of a Down’s child.
    I was told that FGM, called “flattening” in the Smoky Mountain culture, was done to straying or disobedient wives and to girl children for masturbating. One doctor said he did his last one in the early ’90s.
    Far more disturbing is that husbands would tie and cut their wives, usually without anesthetics, and then isolate them from their families by claiming an insult. Children were delegated to enforce this tyranny and attempts to escape were punished by severe beatings. They were house-bound for life and generally buried in the back yard when their poor lives ran their course.
    One TN family reputedly flattened their daughter recently for an out-of-wedlock pregnancy and she escaped and ran away.
    I fired my family long ago but was sought out on this “she’s that women’s libber” to see what I could do. I told cuz to get me witnesses who would be willing to endure public scrutiny of private parts and this would be brought to public attention. So far this has not happened.
    Putting this on the record in case I or you all get more info. I definitely was threatened in childhood but filed it under “hellbitch stepmother” until this came out.
    Thank you for letting me air this.

    • PrettyAmiable
      July 17, 2015 at 11:02 am

      I have severe anger in response to this. People are absolutely terrible sometimes. The first coherent thought I’ve had is “Nope, not calling it flattening. You’re mutilating your children and wives.”

    • trees
      July 17, 2015 at 7:23 pm

      @Angie unduplicated

      I’m not at all familiar with this practice in Appalachia. Thank you for sharing what must be a this painful part of your family history.

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