In a recent media roundtable discussion centered on the subject of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), in Lagos, a resounding consensus emerged: FGM must be acknowledged as a grave abuse, one that demands to be treated at par with other crimes such as child abuse, rape, child trafficking and other abuses against children.
The dialogue, held on 9th August, brought together a group of men who voiced their concerns about the persistence of FGM and the urgent need for its eradication.
A prominent advocate against FGM, who moderated the discussion, Kingsley Obom-Egbulem, underscored the importance of consistency in addressing child abuse.
“If we cannot tolerate rape, child trafficking, and the likes, we should not tolerate FGM either,” Obom-Egbulem declared, highlighting the need for a unified stance against all forms of child exploitation.
Speaking further, he noted that for every circumcision, there is a man’s approval, implicating the need to involve men in the fight against this practice.
Obom-Egbulem however emphasised that, “FGM is an abuse, an injurious abuse, and it deserves to be treated at the same level as other crimes and abuses against children”.
One of the key speakers, Baale Makinde Adesola JP from Isaga Adesola Town in the Ojokoro area of Ifako Ijaiye, Lagos, spoke passionately about the challenges faced in eradicating FGM from his community.
“The problem we are facing when it comes to FGM is that it’s not an open thing,” he revealed.
Drawing a parallel to seeking medical attention for sickness, he emphasised the need for a shift in mindset.
The Baale, who doubles as Child Protection Network Leader in his community, also explained how he focuses on sensitising parents about the difference between discipline and abuse, while also advocating for awareness among Traditional Birth Attendants (TBAs).
The second key speaker at the event, Mr. Awofeso Rasheed, lent his perspective on the legal framework surrounding child rights, citing the Lagos State Child’s Right Act which upholds that “the interest of the child is paramount”.
Addressing the continued prevalence of FGM, he identified push factors that drive its persistence in the 21st century.
“Norms, culture, and a weak legislative framework all contribute,” Awofeso explained, underlining how these factors perpetuate the misguided notion that FGM is a prerequisite for marriage.
In his fervent call for action, Awofeso illuminated the secretive nature of FGM.
“It’s an act that is done in secrecy,” he noted, emphasising the challenges in identifying and proving cases. Unlike visible abuse that leaves physical marks, FGM’s clandestine nature makes it difficult to eradicate.
However, he stressed the importance of continuous community sensitisation to unveil its inherent dangers and consequences.
“Education, advocacy, and awareness campaigns are the key drivers of change of FGM,” he said.
He emphasised the need to hold perpetrators accountable through legal channels, stating that the laws that condemn sexual abuse of children should apply to FGM.
“If you find out about the perpetrators, report them to authorities, do not keep quiet. Treat FGM like you would treat a rape case. Let the world know and by the time perpetrators are arrested, it will serve as a deterrent to others”, he expressed.
Meanwhile, a participant from the Arewa community in Lagos State, said, the impact of FGM is profound, leading to sexual dissatisfaction and emotional trauma for women who undergo the procedure.
In a resounding call to action for a united front against FGM, ensuring that this harmful practice is exposed, eradicated, and prevented for the sake of the rights and well-being of the girl child.
Convener of the roundtable, Margaret Onah appreciated the participants drawn from the civil society, traditional institution, the Arewa community in Lagos and the media.
She enjoined all participants to speak up against the evil of FGM in their various constituencies.
Story by Blessing Osemobor