Former Executive Director, Kudirat Initiative for Democracy, KIND and CEO, Wellbeing Foundation Africa, Amy Oyekunle, speaks to WO on why the fight against female genital mutilation, FGM, and other sources of GBV cannot be stalled.
How have we fared?
The Agency that is supposed to enforce it is NAPTIP, however, they work in collaboration with several ministries, departments, and agencies like the Police, Ministry of Women Affairs, Ministry of Education, Health, Civil Society, etc. It is a multitask, to ensure they are creating awareness, implementing, and enforcing the Act.
In terms of how far we have gone from the legislative point of view, we have made some milestones but it is not enough. Though we have states that have passed the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act, implementation is always a challenge. VAPP was created, designed, developed, and passed but it didn’t have the prerequisite backing because it doesn’t have a budgetary connotation, there is a bit of misunderstanding around clarity of implementation. There is a simplification of roles at some point which is one of the challenges we have. Importantly, awareness creation among communities, among states where this heinous act is practice is not enough.
SDG target to totally eliminate FGM is 2030. With the Pandemic ravaging the world, what is the hope despite the little progress being made by Civil Society?
Ending GBV specificly FGM is one of those things we have to come together in achieving. What is really missing in many of our analyses is the political will. Political will should first and foremost recognize there is a challenge. Do we have law and policy that support it at the states and local government level? How are we changing the social behavior because it is human beings that perpetrate the act and because human beings do it, there is a rationale behind it. Many people hide behind culture but a very few people question why. This is hidden behind patriarchy; we want to suppress woman sexuality, stop them from being promiscuous, we want to make sure our women and girls behave in certain ways without questioning what that rationale is. If we don’t question it, then there is a problem.
When the lockdown began, we saw that the reason a lot of violence was happening was that victims were locked down with their oppressors of the crime. In Kenya and other countries, these people have been given some other roles to do because cutting jobs for many people is a way of life. They get paid for it. They re-orientate and train them by opening their eyes to the dangers that it has on women and girls and they taught them how to question it. So many of them have taken to other professions. So it is multicity of roles.
What happened in Kenya is what is regarded as a best practice. We are different from Kenya, though the same Africa. From the research done in 2017, it shows that some states that FGM is prevalence are Osun, Ekiti, Kwara, Oyo, Ebonyi etc. Ebonyi had a law and they made it in such a way that they engage traditional community heads, women at the community level which shows this is a terrible practice and not just that, there is also a fine and if caught, such person will go to jail. The problem we have is that traditional rulers and the community heads are the ones pushing it with different approach that it can no more be done in their communities. It may or may not be working but there is a zero tolerance in Ebonyi to FGM.
In other states like Ekiti, with her excellency Bisi Fayemi, they had have passed laws, constituted the family court that anyone that commits this act is taken to court immediately and there is a jail term for committing the act which is 3 -13 years or so.. They are also engaging traditional rulers, women leaders and different associations.
I know that traditional birth attendants are being trained in Lagos and they have a strong criminal law against domestic violence and other kinds of actions against women and girls, though has not passed VAPP Act.
Women issues are hunman rights issues. We can not move the country forward without meaningful inclusion of women and girls. Every state right now should have passed VAPP. That shows political will.
For civil society, they should continue in what they are doing and amplying the voices of women and girls everywhere. For women and men, FGM is criminal.
It is against our fundamental human rights as women and it needs to stop.
The difference between male and female cutting. Some are saying if they can cut men, why can’t they cut women too?
Men are not cut. They are circumcised. The procedure for men is that the foreskin is removed and it is not all men that are cut. For Female genital mutilation, they cut off the labia and the labia is equivalent to cutting off the top of the penis.
When you remove a man’s foreskin, it doesn’t have any effect except the crying aspect because it is a procedure. Beyond that, it doesn’t have any negative impact on his body even as he grows up. When you cut off a woman’s labia, you are cutting nerve cell. In some culture, apart from cutting it, they sow back the labia and what they have done is cutting off the critoris. It is supposed to be the erogenuous part of her body.
So they don’t have any feeling there. When they sew it, they open it after wedding and the woman goes through the process of cutting again. For some when they are giving birth, the doctor has to do another incision and this constitutes so many health implications. From the biology point of view, there are many girls who have lost their lives form FGm because it is done under the most unhygienic situation. They use a blade and a knife and it is done by somebody and they cut her and then rub black native something, have to lay down with her facing up. Some go through it in some culture at puberty which is a horror experience which I don’t wish anyone.
They cut her because they don’t want her to be promiscuous. It is a choice that was made for her. This hypothesis is wrong. Nobody has proved it till tomorrow. Ultimately, it is okay for boys and men to enjoy sex while women should not. So the role of women is for productivity and reproduction. They are not supposed to enjoy sex. Some even said they cut it because they don’t want the head of the newborn to touch the Clitoris. If it touches it, the baby will be sick or die and the woman will die. You and I know that it doesn’t make sense at all.
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