Learn all about female genital mutilation in Nigeria

female genital mutilation in nigeria

Prevalence of Female genital mutilation (FGM)


Female genital mutilation in Nigeria is widely distributed, this is  due to its large population, Nigeria has the highest absolute number of female genital mutilation (FGM) worldwide, accounting for about one-quarter of the estimated 115–130 million circumcised women in the world.

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is defined 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. In Nigeria, subjection of girls and women to obscure traditional practices is legendary. FGM is an unhealthy traditional practice inflicted on girls and women worldwide. Female genital mutilation in Nigeria is widely recognized as a violation of human rights, which is deeply rooted in cultural beliefs and perceptions over decades and generations with no easy task for change.

FGM varies from country to country, tribes, religion, and from one state and cultural setting to another, and no continent in the world has been exempted. In most parts female genital mutilation in Nigeria is carried out at a very young age (minors) and there is no possibility of the individual's consent

Though FGM is practiced in more than 28 countries in Africa and a few scattered communities worldwide, 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.

FGM is widely practiced in Nigeria, and with its large population, Nigeria has the highest absolute number of cases of FGM in the world, accounting for about one-quarter of the estimated 115–130 million circumcised women worldwide. In Nigeria, of the six largest ethnic groups, the Yoruba, Hausa, Fulani, Ibo, Ijaw, and Kanuri, only the Fulani do not practice any form.

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Practice of FGM has no relationship with religion. Muslims and Christians practice it, but it is more widely spread in Christian predominated parts of Nigeria with extreme forms of FGM prevalent in the North


Types and Forms of Female Genital Mutilation  in Nigeria

female genital mutilation in nigeria
female genital mutilation in nigeria

Female Genital Mutilation in Nigeria is classified into four types as follows.

Clitoridectomy -Type I (the least severe form of the practice): It involves the removal of the prepuce or the hood of the clitoris and all or part of the clitoris. In Nigeria, this usually involves excision of only a part of the clitoris.

Sunna- Type II: is a more severe practice that involves the removal of the clitoris along with partial or total excision of the labia minora. Type I and Type II are more widespread but less harmful compared to Type III.

Infibulation- Type III: is the most severe form of FGM. It involves the removal of the clitoris, the labia minora and adjacent medial part of the labia majora and the stitching of the vaginal orifice, leaving an opening of the size of a pin head to allow for menstrual flow or urine.

Type IV or other unclassified types recognized by include introcision and gishiri cuts, pricking, piercing, or incision of the clitoris and/or labia, scraping and/or cutting of the vagina (angrya cuts), stretching the clitoris and/or labia, cauterization, the introduction of corrosive substances and herbs in the vagina, and other forms.

Women's rights in view with FGM

FGM is recognized worldwide as a fundamental violation of the human rights of girls and women. It reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women. It involves violation of rights of the children and violation of a person's right to health, security, and physical integrity, the right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment, and the right to life when the procedure results in death. Furthermore, girls usually undergo the practice without their informed consent, depriving them of the opportunity to make independent decision about their bodies.

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Health RIsk of FGM

An estimated 100–140 million girls and women worldwide are currently living with the consequences of FGM. In Africa, about 3 million girls are at risk for FGM annually. Despite the increased international and little national attention, the prevalence of female genital mutilation in Nigeria  overall has declined very little. The procedure has no health benefits for girls and women.

Adverse consequences of FGM are

  • shock from pain and hemorrhage,
  • infection
  • acute urinary retention following such trauma
  • damage to the urethra or anus in the struggle of the victim during the procedure making the extent of the operation dictated in many cases by chance,
  • chronic pelvic infection
  • acquired gynatresia resulting in hematocolpos, vulval adhesions, dysmenorrhea, retention cysts, and sexual difficulties with anorgasmia.
  • Other complications are implantation dermoid cysts and keloids and sexual dysfunction.

The mental and psychological agony attached with FGM is deemed the most serious complication because the problem does not manifest outwardly for help to be offered. The young girl is in constant fear of the procedure and after the ritual she dreads sex because of anticipated pain and dreads childbirth because of complications caused by FGM. Such girls may not complain but end up becoming frigid and withdrawn resulting in marital disharmony.



In Nigeria, FGM is being tackled by WHO, United Nations International Children Emergency Fund (UNICEF), Federation of International Obstetrics and Gynecology (FIGO), African Union, the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), and many women organizations. Intensification of education of the general public at all levels has been done with emphasis on the dangers and undesirability of FGM. In 1995, Platform of Action adopted by the Beijing conference called for the eradication of FGM through the enactment and enforcement of legislation against its perpetrator. However, there is no federal law prohibiting the practice of FGM in Nigeria. This is the main reason for the slow progress on declining the prevalence of FGM. Despite the increased international and little national attention, the prevalence of FGM overall has declined very little. The prevalence depends on the level of education and the geographic location.

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At the grassroots, efforts should be taken to join in the crusade to say “NO” to FGM anywhere it is practiced among our people. It is crude, dangerous, wicked and unhealthy. FGM is not required by any religion and there is no scientific evidence that women who have been mutilated are more faithful or better wives than those who have not undergone the procedure. It is very clear that there is no single benefit derived from FGM.

There is need for abolition of this unhealthy practice. A multidisciplinary approach involving legislation, health care professional organizations, empowerment of the women in the society, and education of the general public at all levels with emphasis on dangers and undesirability of FGM is paramount.




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