Back in May 2015, Muhammadu Buhari was sworn in as president of Nigeria. His predecessor, Goodluck Jonathan made sure he would never be forgotten by passing an historic law before he left – he banned female genital mutilation (FGM) nationally.
While many states had banned FGM between 1999 and 2002, this national ban comes under the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act 2015 and was passed in Senate on 5 May.
Female genital mutilation (FGM) is the name for a tradition which should only be described as a violent assault on a female’s clitoris and labia, which are either partially or totally removed for non-medical purposes.
UNICEF say the act has been perpetrated against more than 130 million females – girls and women – across 29 countries in Africa and the Middle East. The harm caused by this practice can be irrevocably damaging, causing infertility, hemorrhaging, infections and other painful, sometimes life-threatening side effects. And the reasons for its perpetuation? To oppress women by limiting their sexual desire, but also as an archaic passage of rights ceremony from childhood into womanhood.
Many of these countries have coordinated community awareness groups and protested against FGM, to the extent that it is commonly frowned upon in some places. UNICEF reported that teenage girls were now one-third less likely to undergo FGM today than 30 years ago.
So far, FGM has been made illegal in Benin, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, and Togo—and now Nigeria, too. The penalties range from a minimum of three months to a maximum of life in prison. Twelve host countries have also banned this practice —Australia, Belgium, Canada, Cyprus, Denmark, Italy, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom, and the US. In Australia, six out of eight states have passed laws against FGM. In the US, the federal government and 17 states have criminalised the practice.
photo credit: IB Times