Article Versions
Export Article
Cite this article
  • Normal Style
  • MLA Style
  • APA Style
  • Chicago Style
Mini Review
Open Access Peer-reviewed

Female Genital Mutilation in Nigeria; A Brief Sociological Review

Oluchi Anita Chukwuka Ogbu
World Journal of Preventive Medicine. 2018, 6(1), 1-5. DOI: 10.12691/jpm-6-1-1
Published online: March 07, 2018

Abstract

This paper is aimed at developing an insight into a preventable societal issue: the female genital mutilation (FGM), using sociological theories to explore its justifications. In Nigeria, FGM is historically predominant in her culture and traditions. In many cultures, it is perceived as a rites or initiation into womanhood as it includes a period of education and seclusion about responsibilities of a wife. The issue of Female genital mutilation in Nigeria is being tackled by the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF, the Economic Commission of Africa (FIGO) and many other organizations. The general public at all levels has been given an intensified education emphasizing on the undesirability and dangers of Female Genital Mutilation. Platform of Action adopted by the Beijing conference in 1995 called for FGM eradication by enforcing legislation against its perpetrators. However, in Nigeria there is no such law against FGM practice. This perhaps, remains one of the reasons why FGM control in the country is on slow declining progress.

1. Introduction

Female genital mutilation (FGM) has been subjected to a considerable argument as it is deeply rooted in religious, cultural and historical tradition. It is defined by the World Health Organization as a procedure that involves the total or partial removal of female external genitalia for religious, cultural or any other reasons 1. It is mostly done on girls aged 0 to 15, though married women and adults can also be subjected FGM which varies with circumstances and traditions 1. An approximation of 100 to 145 million women has been exposed to this practice globally and more than 2 million face this pain annually 2. In Africa, Yoder and khan in 2007 estimated that about 91.5million girls are currently living with the implications of this issue 3.

1.1. Classifications of Female Genital Mutilation

FGM is classified into four types: type I (also called sunna or cliteridectomy). It involves the removal of all or part of the prepuce or/and clitoris.

Type II (known as excision). This entails the removal of all or part of the labia minora and clitoris without the removal of the labia majora.

The most severe type is the type III which is also called pharaonic or infibulation. It involves the complete or partial removal of the external genital and the narrowing of the vaginal orifice. The scar from the infibulation covers most of the introitus allowing a small hole for menstruation and urination. This type is very common in Sudan, Somalia, Niger, Nigeria, some parts of Egypt, Senegal, Mali, Kenya and Ethiopia 4, 15.

The mildest of all the types is the type IV which is piercing, burning, cutting or pricking of the genitalia.

1.2. Female Genital Mutilation in Nigeria

With an increasing population in Nigeria of approximately 186 million of which female population is approx. 91.8 million, FGM practices also tend to increase with prevalence rate varying (north east 2.9%, north central 9.9%, north west 20.7%, south west 47.5%, south east 49.0%, south south 25.8% ) 17.

In Nigeria it is mostly used as a way to control the sexuality of women which is closely related with marriageability of girls 3. Asekun and Amusa 5 in their study show that mothers prefer to subject their girl children to the practice to protect them from being beaten, disgraced, ostracized or shunned. This avoidable practice has gone deep rooted as the decision makers are mothers, grandmothers, men, opinion leaders and age groups.

2. The Health Implications of Female Genital Mutilation

The victims of female genital mutilation experiences different health implications and they tend to be similar in all societies that practice FGM, though the implications differs because it depends on the procedure used and the type of FGM 4 The World Health Organization in 2000 identified the immediate health consequences, they include: hemorrhage, severe pain, injury to the adjacent tissues, urine retention, shock, and ulceration of the genital region 6. Due to the use of the same tools in multiple operations, there can be a tendency of transmission of infectious disease such as Immuno-deficiency Virus (HIV) from one patient to another 4.

Some of the long term health implication of this health issue include: urinary incontinence which is caused by the damage to the urethra, abscesses and cyst, painful sexual intercourse (dyspareunia), keloid scar formation, childbirth difficulties and sexual dysfunction 7. On psychological and psychosexual health, these girls/women that pass through this process may have a long lasting memory of what they had gone through. This on a long term may lead to depression, anxiety and they may have a feeling of incompleteness 8.

This practice still goes unabated even when these health implications are made known to the custodians of culture and practitioners. The supposedly victims of this health issue are also willing to undergo this severe pain rather than facing humiliation, shame and antagonism in their several communities. Similarly, the victims comply with the traditions and customs even when they don’t know why is being carried out 7. The question is: what could be the reason for this undisputable compromise? The next section would explore this question using sociological theories to justify the reasons behind this practice.

3. Sociological Theories and FGM

3.1. Feminist and Patriarchial Perspective

The feminist and patriarchial theory stipulated that female genital mutilation is the misuse of women’s sexuality and body in some form, though each theory differs in their interpretations 9. In 1971, Firestone argued that men sees women role only as child rearing and reproduction because they are biologically capable, therefore, they depend on men for livelihood and protection. Anti-FGM activists and Feminist scholars such as Koso-Thomas, Hosken, Weil-Curiel to name a few explains FGM as an oppression and assault on the sexuality of women and have a disastrous effect on their health. They further relate FGM with a patriarchal desire and their need to be in control of the women’s sexuality and body in order to maintain their fidelity and chastity. Pickup in 2001 argued that FGM act as a material bargain that women make with patriarchy to get an economic support. For instance, a mother may decide to genitally mutilate her daughter so as to get her married in future 10, 16. FGM thought to reinforce and reflect the moral and social order in which are forced, brainwashed and obliged into being faithful and pure. The critic of the feminist analysis is that women themselves inflict this practice, however, from the above explanation; women carrying out the men’s desire show that men are the hidden and real perpetuators 10, 16.

3.2. Religious Perspective

Different religion practice FGM even though they are not necessarily required by these religions as there is no justification from the “Holy book” 4. Hegar-Boyle et al, in 2001 did a study on FGM in three different African countries and they found that in Egypt, about 95% of the population are Muslim and that religious leaders uses their power to perpetuate women to undergo this practice without opposition or discussion 11. This shows gender inequality and the oppression women face in most African countries. Most women accept to the practice as they believe it is a religious tradition. This has continued to put these women in a submissive position because religion plays a pivotal role in their belief 4.

The above justifies Karl Marx’s view on religion being an “opiate for the people.” It is used by the bourgeoisies to oppress the proletariats. For Marx, religion is irrational as it is used as an excuse for society to function the way it functions 12. In this context, the oppressed victims of FGM are the proletariats while those religious leaders are the bourgeoisie. Therefore, religion can be seen to be used here to inflict pain on these women.

3.3. Functionalist Theory

Durkheim in 1938 propounded social facts which he said is created by the society and they exert pressure on individual to take social actions. He further stipulated that for one to understand social fact, it is imperative to understand the function on which it depends on that he called “social order”. This social order for him helps to maintain solidarity in a society, thus a functional society 7.

Female genital mutilation is embedded in traditions and culture of the communities on where it is being practiced. This practice is understood as a social fact and must not be stopped because of its alleged usefulness in the society. These functions include: maintaining virginity and chastity among the women before marriage, sexual desire mitigation among the females, reduction of infidelity in marriage, among others 4.

4. Recommendations on Curbing the Issue of Genital Female Mutilation in Nigeria

4.1. Creation of a Healthy Public Policy

Firstly, the Nigerian Government should identify that FGM is a violation on the right of women. Law should be enforced to bring those people perpetrating these acts to justice. Most of these acts are done in local and state level; therefore the law should be known in these levels and translated to local languages so those people would be able to understand.

4.2. Respect for Culture

FGM acts a traditional rite in some community where it is practiced; that is why its eradication may be seen as an infringement on their customary right. To avoid this, the Government can encourage the milder form of this practice by provision of trained personnel to carry out the procedure. This will help reduce mutilation on the victims. These will give a sense of containment on the participants and the members of the society 1.

4.3. Use of Media

Media can be used to create awareness on the dangers and health implications of this act. Drama, cinemas, magazines, newspapers can be used to impact knowledge to the people using real life situations to make the implications a reality to the practitioners and victims alike.

4.4. Education and Campaigns

This strategy is very essential as it will equip those involve in this practice to know the health implications of FGM. For the victims of FGM, education will help them argue convincingly when they are faced with such problems. It will also empower them to know when their right is being violated 7. The more educated and informed a woman is, the more she is to understand and appreciate the hazardous effect of harmful practices like FGM and sees it as unnecessary and will refuse their daughters to perform such operation.

4.5. Partnership

The Ministry of Health, non-governmental organizations and other stakeholders can collaborate and go to those areas and villages where FGM is being practiced to educate them on the dangers of FGM. They can also raise awareness in those areas by the use of campaign such as “stop FGM campaign” to create awareness 1. The community members should also be mobilized to join in the campaigns. This will help them to change behaviors that are detrimental to their health.

4.6. Empowerment

One of the key in the reduction of FGM practice is the empowerment of women as FGM is a clear indicator of gender inequality 13. This can be done by fostering programs that will empower women economic development which can change the way women are viewed as the dependent member in a household. Furthermore, provision of employment and development of skills can also empower them so that they would be able to make healthy decision (for instance saying “NO” to FGM on themselves and their children) without interferences of the male counterpart 2.

4.7. What Has Been Done in Africa

Advocacy-USAIDS have worked with different religious leaders and communities to advocate for the healthier and safer treatment girls and women who have undergone FGM. A Tostan project, an advocacy project in West Africa has incorporated FGM education as part of school curriculum 2.

Policy- In 2006, the Government of Ethiopia passed a law against FGM 2.

Partnership-- in Kenya, religious leaders and medical doctors collaborate to clarify the beliefs about FGM and also making recommendations on woman health based on science evidence 2.

Education, campaign and empowerment--- In Mali, the ministry of health and USAID worked together to educate the community members on the health implications of this practice. Berg & Denison, 2012 stipulated that the program had an effect as those that intended to perform FGM on their daughters reduced from 81% to 33% 14.

5. Conclusion

Female genital mutilation is a multiple dimensional approach that should not be glossed over by the biomedical model. It is deeply rooted in religion, culture and tradition. Therefore, for this practice to be reduced in Nigeria, both in states, local and federal level, the Government should enforces laws that will deter the perpetrators of this practice from doing so. Before this is done, alternative jobs should be provided for them because most of them make a living from performing this practice. Campaigns that are meaningful such as the use of drama should also be used to create awareness on the health implication of female genital mutilation especially in the rural areas.

References

[1]  GSN, W. T., Newsgroup, G. S. N., & Feed, G. L. (2006). Female genital mutilation and obstetric outcome: WHO collaborative prospective study in six African countries.
In article      View Article
 
[2]  USAIDS (2014). The U.S. Government Working Together for the Abandonment of Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting. Retrieved from https://www.usaid.gov/sites/default/files/.../USGEffortstoEndFGM.pdf.
In article      View Article
 
[3]  Yoder, P. S., & Khan, S. (2008). Numbers of women circumcised in Africa: The production of a total.
In article      View Article
 
[4]  Clarke, C. (2013). Cultural and Religious Practices, the Lack of Educational Resources, and their Role in the Perpetuation of Female Genital Mutilation. Undergraduate Review: A Journal of Undergraduate Student Research, 6(1), 36-44.
In article      View Article
 
[5]  Asekun-Olarinmoye, E. O., & Amusan, O. A. (2008). The impact of health education on attitudes towards female genital mutilation (FGM) in a rural Nigerian community. The European Journal of Contraception & Reproductive Health Care, 13(3), 289-297.
In article      View Article  PubMed
 
[6]  World Health Organization. (1997). Female Genital Mutilation: A Joint WHO/UNICEF/UNFPA Statement. Geneva, Switzerland:
In article      
 
[7]  Isiaka, B. T., & Yusuff, S. O. (2013). Perception of Women on Female Genital Mutilations and implications for health communications in Lagos State, Nigeria. American Academic & Scholarly Research Journal, 5(1), 8.
In article      View Article
 
[8]  Behrendt, A., & Moritz, S. (2014). Posttraumatic stress disorder and memory problems after female genital mutilation. American Journal of Psychiatry.
In article      View Article
 
[9]  Baron, E. M., & Denmark, F. L. (2006). An exploration of female genital mutilation. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1087(1), 339-355.
In article      View Article  PubMed
 
[10]  Pickup, F., Williams, S., & Sweetman, C. (2001). Ending violence against women: A challenge for development and humanitarian work. Oxfam.
In article      PubMed
 
[11]  Herger-Boyle, Elizabeth, Sangora , Fortunata, Foss, G. (2001). International discourse and local politics: Anti-female-genital-cutting laws in Egypt, Tanzania, and the United States.
In article      View Article
 
[12]  Marx, K. (1972). The marx-engels reader (Vol. 4). New York: Norton.
In article      View Article
 
[13]  Mandara, M. U. (2004). Female genital mutilation in Nigeria. International Journal of Gynecology & Obstetrics, 84(3), 291-298.
In article      View Article  PubMed
 
[14]  Berg, R. C., & Denison, E. (2012). Interventions to reduce the prevalence of female genital mutilation/cutting in African countries. Campbell systematic reviews, 8(9).
In article      View Article
 
[15]  Elmusharaf, S., Elhadi, N., & Almroth, L. (2006). Reliability of self reported form of female genital mutilation and WHO classification: cross sectional study. bmj, 333(7559), 124.
In article      View Article  PubMed
 
[16]  Njambi, W. N. (2004). Dualisms and female bodies in representations of African female circumcision A feminist critique. Feminist Theory, 5(3), 281-303.
In article      View Article
 
[17]  National Population Commission (NPC) [Nigeria] and ICF International. 2014. Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey 2013. Abuja, Nigeria, and Rockville, Maryland, USA: NPA and ICF Intern.
In article      
 

Published with license by Science and Education Publishing, Copyright © 2018 Oluchi Anita Chukwuka Ogbu

Creative CommonsThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

Cite this article:

Normal Style
Oluchi Anita Chukwuka Ogbu. Female Genital Mutilation in Nigeria; A Brief Sociological Review. World Journal of Preventive Medicine. Vol. 6, No. 1, 2018, pp 1-5. http://pubs.sciepub.com/jpm/6/1/1
MLA Style
Ogbu, Oluchi Anita Chukwuka. "Female Genital Mutilation in Nigeria; A Brief Sociological Review." World Journal of Preventive Medicine 6.1 (2018): 1-5.
APA Style
Ogbu, O. A. C. (2018). Female Genital Mutilation in Nigeria; A Brief Sociological Review. World Journal of Preventive Medicine, 6(1), 1-5.
Chicago Style
Ogbu, Oluchi Anita Chukwuka. "Female Genital Mutilation in Nigeria; A Brief Sociological Review." World Journal of Preventive Medicine 6, no. 1 (2018): 1-5.
Share
[1]  GSN, W. T., Newsgroup, G. S. N., & Feed, G. L. (2006). Female genital mutilation and obstetric outcome: WHO collaborative prospective study in six African countries.
In article      View Article
 
[2]  USAIDS (2014). The U.S. Government Working Together for the Abandonment of Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting. Retrieved from https://www.usaid.gov/sites/default/files/.../USGEffortstoEndFGM.pdf.
In article      View Article
 
[3]  Yoder, P. S., & Khan, S. (2008). Numbers of women circumcised in Africa: The production of a total.
In article      View Article
 
[4]  Clarke, C. (2013). Cultural and Religious Practices, the Lack of Educational Resources, and their Role in the Perpetuation of Female Genital Mutilation. Undergraduate Review: A Journal of Undergraduate Student Research, 6(1), 36-44.
In article      View Article
 
[5]  Asekun-Olarinmoye, E. O., & Amusan, O. A. (2008). The impact of health education on attitudes towards female genital mutilation (FGM) in a rural Nigerian community. The European Journal of Contraception & Reproductive Health Care, 13(3), 289-297.
In article      View Article  PubMed
 
[6]  World Health Organization. (1997). Female Genital Mutilation: A Joint WHO/UNICEF/UNFPA Statement. Geneva, Switzerland:
In article      
 
[7]  Isiaka, B. T., & Yusuff, S. O. (2013). Perception of Women on Female Genital Mutilations and implications for health communications in Lagos State, Nigeria. American Academic & Scholarly Research Journal, 5(1), 8.
In article      View Article
 
[8]  Behrendt, A., & Moritz, S. (2014). Posttraumatic stress disorder and memory problems after female genital mutilation. American Journal of Psychiatry.
In article      View Article
 
[9]  Baron, E. M., & Denmark, F. L. (2006). An exploration of female genital mutilation. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1087(1), 339-355.
In article      View Article  PubMed
 
[10]  Pickup, F., Williams, S., & Sweetman, C. (2001). Ending violence against women: A challenge for development and humanitarian work. Oxfam.
In article      PubMed
 
[11]  Herger-Boyle, Elizabeth, Sangora , Fortunata, Foss, G. (2001). International discourse and local politics: Anti-female-genital-cutting laws in Egypt, Tanzania, and the United States.
In article      View Article
 
[12]  Marx, K. (1972). The marx-engels reader (Vol. 4). New York: Norton.
In article      View Article
 
[13]  Mandara, M. U. (2004). Female genital mutilation in Nigeria. International Journal of Gynecology & Obstetrics, 84(3), 291-298.
In article      View Article  PubMed
 
[14]  Berg, R. C., & Denison, E. (2012). Interventions to reduce the prevalence of female genital mutilation/cutting in African countries. Campbell systematic reviews, 8(9).
In article      View Article
 
[15]  Elmusharaf, S., Elhadi, N., & Almroth, L. (2006). Reliability of self reported form of female genital mutilation and WHO classification: cross sectional study. bmj, 333(7559), 124.
In article      View Article  PubMed
 
[16]  Njambi, W. N. (2004). Dualisms and female bodies in representations of African female circumcision A feminist critique. Feminist Theory, 5(3), 281-303.
In article      View Article
 
[17]  National Population Commission (NPC) [Nigeria] and ICF International. 2014. Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey 2013. Abuja, Nigeria, and Rockville, Maryland, USA: NPA and ICF Intern.
In article