Female circumcision, also commonly and recently referred to as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as all procedures which involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia and/or injury to the female genital organs, whether for cultural or any other non-therapeutic reasons. FGM is practiced in more than 28 countries in Africa and a few scattered communities worldwide, but its burden is seen in Nigeria, Egypt, Mali, Eritrea, Sudan, Central African Republic, and northern part of Ghana where it has been an old traditional and cultural practice of various ethnic groups.
In Nigeria, maybe due to its very large population size accounts for a quarter of the 115-130million circumcised women worldwide. This record is alarming especially considering that FGM is a violation of Human human rights but unfortunately, its widespread has been achieved over the years because of the cultural beliefs and perceptions by its people. These beliefs range from preservation of chastity and purification, family honor, hygiene, aesthetic reasons, protection of virginity and prevention of promiscuity, modification of sociosexual attitudes (countering failure of a woman to attain orgasm), increasing sexual pleasure of husband, enhancing fertility and increasing matrimonial opportunities. Other reasons are to prevent mother and child from dying during childbirth and for legal reasons (one cannot inherit property if not circumcised). In some parts of Nigeria, the cut edges of the external genitalia are smeared with secretions from a snail footpad with the belief that the snail being a slow animal would influence the circumcised girl to “go slow” with sexual activities in future.
In Nigeria, of the six largest ethnic groups, the Yoruba, Hausa, Fulani, Ibo, Ijaw, and Kanuri, only the Fulani do not practice any form. Female Genital Mutilation has no religious attachments, both Christians and Muslims practice this menace. It is more of a deep cultural belief. It is pertinent to note that in all 36 states in Nigeria, Osun state has the highest prevalence of FGM accounting to 75% of all cases. Upon learning this at a recent training in Lagos, I picked up my phone and made calls to 3 of my friends whom I know are from Osun state and 2 of them confirmed that they had been circumcised as babies and didn’t know until they became adults. They also wouldn’t want the same to happen to their children.
Female Circumcision is bad in every way and all the reasons for it’s justification has been negated by recent Research. It is a very painful procedure which leads to pain during sex and childbirth and in the case of Mrs Esther Ojo, it could lead to an infection (from the instruments or place of circumcision not properties sanitised) that could cause the death of the unborn infant. Not only did Esther lose her child, she also reported to have very painful sexual intercourse which affected her relationship with her husband.
In Islam, Female Genital Mutilation has no basis. Not a single verse of the Qur’an justify it and available hadiths have been rendered invalid. A Hadith in Sahih Bukhari says: “I heard the Prophet saying. “Five practices are characteristics of the Fitra: circumcision, shaving the pubic hair, cutting the moustaches short, clipping the nails, and depilating the hair of the armpits.” Mohamed Salim al Awwa writes that it is unclear whether these requirements were meant for females. This cannot be regarded as a justification for this menace. Female circumcision in by far more intense and dangerous with long term negative effects compared with male circumcision and so cannot be compared. (This is why the WHO in 1991 started to refer to it as Female Genital Mutilation is against simply female circumcision).
Another hadith from the Sunan Abu Dawood collection states: “A woman used to perform circumcision in Medina. The Prophet said to her: Do not cut severely as that is better for a woman and more desirable for a husband.” Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani describes this hadith as poor in authenticity, and quotes Ahmad Bayhaqi ‘s opinion that it is “poor, with a broken chain of transmission”. Yusuf ibn Abd-al-Barr commented: “Those who consider (female) circumcision a sunnah, use as evidence this hadith of Abu al-Malih, which is based solely on the evidence of Hajjaj ibn Artaa, who cannot be admitted as an authority when he is the sole transmitter.
Several Muslim Leaders worldwide have clamoured for the end of FGM but quietly, the practice still continues. In Nigeria, FGM was banned in 2015 yet several near death reports have been given In 2018. It is time mothers stomped their feet in defiance against this menace on their daughters. It has no basis in religion and it’s cultural justification is a farce.
*Stay positive, it would only get better*