A Non-Governmental Organisation, Safe Haven Development Initiative, has raised the alarm that 16 out of the 18 local movement areas in Cross River State still engage in female genital mutilation.
These communities are oblivious of a law that prohibits such obnoxious practice that sometimes results in fatalities. The law was passed by the state house of assembly in 2000.
Speaking in Calabar during a stakeholders' meeting with media professionals on the practice which they said had adverse health, psychological and emotional effects on the victims, Mrs Margaret Onah, executive director of the organisation said the practice resulted in the death of many women during childbirth.
She attributed the cause of death to “a tear of the scar left behind by the mutilation since the victims' genitals can no longer expand to allow for the easy delivery of the baby with less friction.
“Females who are not mutilated are not accepted in those communities where genital mutilation is practiced because they say it is an open ticket for the girl to engage in promiscuity but they fail to realise that promiscuity does not start in the genitals but in the mind.”
She said the group had been engaging the communities in the central and northern parts of the state to enlighten them on the need to shun the practice because of its harmful effect on women.
According to Onah, “female genital mutilation or circumcision as they call it, is rooted in cultural practice and it is during new yam festivals that young girls are subjected to this practice to mark the ceremony. So, we are using this period to enlighten the people on the adverse health implications of the cultural practice.
“A law prohibiting genital mutilation has been in place in the state since year 2000 during the era of Mr Donald Duke but has largely been dormant, which is why many people are not aware that it is a crime to mutilate a female for whatever reasons apart from health related complications during accidents.
“We are sensitising the communities now on the need to abolish the practice but once we are done with that, anyone who still engages in it will be arrested and prosecuted based on the law which stipulates a one year fine for first offender and three years for a second time offender.”
A public health consultant who spoke at the event, Dr Andor Ndep, remarked that she was a victim of female genital mutilation and she still feels the trauma she went through several decades after.
She called for a massive campaign involving everyone to ensure that the practice is abolished, whether it has cultural significance or not.