Outgoing Nigerian President Signs A Law Banning Female Genital Mutilation

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Outgoing Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has signed a major new federal law banning female genital mutilation. It is as if he wanted to leave his term on a high, given that the past few years his presidency has come under fire for not doing enough to tackle the growing problem created by terrorist group Boko Haram especially in the north of Nigeria.

The Violence Against Person Act of 2015 prohibits female circumcision or genital mutilation, forceful ejection from home and harmful widowhood practices. It also prohibits abandonment of spouse, children and other dependents without sustenance, battery and harmful traditional practices.

This is a major move forward in the fight for gender equality and human rights in Africa’s most populous nation. Back in February, President Goodluck made a public statement saying fighting for women’s rights was a priority for him so this is proof he didn’t leave office on an empty promise.

For those of you unfamiliar with the practice, FGM usually happens to young girls before they hit puberty and is performed by an elder woman in the community. It is the practice of cutting her clitoris and other parts of her vagina in keeping with a cultural belief that cutting makes them “pure” and not prone to sexual arousal.

UN Data from 2014 states almost a quarter of Nigerian women have undergone an FGM procedure which can in commonly cause excessive bleeding, health problem, fertility problems, and in some extreme cases even death. Sadly Nigeria isn’t the biggest culprit in Africa when it comes to FGM, Egypt is.

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FGM is most commonly practiced in Africa and the Middle East, and the World Health Organization estimates 125 million girls globally have been cut. It can sometimes misleadingly be referred to as “female circumcision” but unlike male circumcision, there are no benefits to it whatsoever and it is known as a barbaric and inhumane practice that many activists around the world are fighting to outlaw.

One of the main pressure points has come from more and more open conversations happening on a number of platforms worldwide. It has become a topic discussed at forums such as the inaugural Girl Summit held in London in 2014 created to tackle this issue as well as forced child marriage, campaigns like the one spearheaded by the Guardian in the UK to force the government into playing a vital role in helping shed light on and end this practice, and even independent initiatives like the one created by Rhobi Samwelly in Tanzania where she houses girls to protect them from becoming FGM victims during “cutting season” in the country.

And of course the countless articles, news stories, panels, blog posts and programs created by everyday women and organization who want to stop this barbaric practice from harming the next generation of women.

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Some prominent human rights organizations are speaking out in favor of this move by Nigeria, but warn the hard work is not over yet.

“It’s not going to immediately stop communities from practicing FGM,” said Grace Uwiyeze of the campaign charity Equality Now in a statement, adding enforcement of the law is crucial.

Some of Nigeria’s 36 states already prohibited the practice, but this nationwide ban means there is extra attention being paid to FGM practices.

“Global experience tells us that ultimately, it’s through changing attitudes, not just laws, that we will end FGM,” Tanya Barron, chief executive of children’s charity Plan International.

“Prosecution must be just one strand of our efforts to end FGM worldwide. What is encouraging is that we are talking more and more about FGM, in Africa, in Europe and across the world.”

We hope this will prompt other countries in Africa and the Middle East who are yet to make an explicit law banning female genital mutilation to follow suit and take a stand for the basic human rights of girls and women in the 21st century.

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2 Comments

  1. Pingback: Nigeria and Gambia Banning Female Genital Mutilation Is A Major Win For Women's Rights - GirlTalkHQ

  2. Pingback: We will break these chains forever - National Justice for Our Neighbors

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