Female genital cutting in Ekiti State-A tale of three kings
The advocacy to end Female Genital Cutting in Nigeria may take longer than anticipated. This is despite it being outlawed in May 2015.According to a latest report by 28 Too Many, an End FGC charity, the estimated prevalence of Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting among Nigerian women aged 15 to 49 is 24.8 per cent with states in the south-west zone accounting for 54.5 per cent.
A visit to Ekiti, one of the South West states with a 72.3 per cent prevalence rate, shows that the law may not be enough to cause abolishment of the practice.Despite medically proven to cause chronic pain; infections; primary infertility and birth complications, among others, the act still thrives on culture,thereby making it difficult to eradicate.
In Ekiti, it is popularly believed that FGC prevents the death of a child during childbirth. According to narratives there, if the head of a child touches the clitoris, he/she will die.
“Circumcision is to make sure that a child does not die,” Funke Adepoju explained confidently, defending the reason for female genital cutting. Adepoju, who is a food seller in Ekiti is convinced that a woman’s clitoris should be cut so that she does not lose her child during childbirth. “I circumcised all my children including my grandchildren,” she said. “May God not let me lose my child,” Adepoju prayed as she recounted the story of a woman who kept losing her children because she was not circumcised.
“Whenever the woman’s baby was coming out and the head touches the clitoris, the baby dies”, she claimed.However, on another occasion when her baby was being delivered, Adepoju said it was discovered that she had not been circumcised, and the moment her clitoris was cut, her baby came out safely. Another justification for the rampant practice of FGC in Ekiti is the belief that, it curtails promiscuity by ensuring that a woman stays faithful to her husband.
Mr. Debo Adeyeye, a palace administrator in Ikere-Ekiti, explained that his experience with girls in Ijebu (a town in Ogun state) made him insist that his only daughter should be circumcised.
“Some ladies clitoris are so long and they are readily moved even when they are cleaning themselves. They find it difficult to control themselves sexually. If they are circumcised, before the clitoris grows again, they would have learnt self control and the implication of having sex anyhow,” Adeyeye insisted.
Just like in every other community where FGC is prevalent, not a few indigenes in Ekiti believe that FGC is a compulsory rite for every girl-child.In Ekiti, FGC is either called circumcision (ikola) or the beautification of the girl-child (sis’ewaf’omobirin) and it is carried out between the eighth day,and when a female child is a year old.
“It is not good that a child should be circumcised when she is grown. It is traumatic for a child to know the pain of circumcision,” Chief. Mrs Daramola Modupe, the Esemore of Ikere-Ekiti expressed.The culture of FGC is deep. Criminalising the act has the potency to make it shrouded in secrecy. “People are still doing it. They do it in the hospital or at home,” High Chief Eunice Bolatito, the women leader of Ijero-Ekiti said, shifting uneasily in her seat.
Locals are unwilling to talk about FGC because of its sensitivity and the illegal status of the practice. It is common to hear many say that they used to do it but had stopped since the government outlawed it, but the countenance sometimes betray their claims.
“Circumcision in Ijero Ekiti is not allowed. It has been announced that circumcision should not be done for the female child again and we also don’t want to disrespect the law in Ijero. In the olden days, we circumcise the girl-child but now it has been cancelled,” High chief Abosede Teniola, a health official in Ijero-Ekiti explained. According to Teniola, female genital cutting is one of the rites performed for the girl-child when she is born until it was banned.
However, the divergent voices and opinions of the kings of Ikere, Ido and Ijero Local Councils reveal that the battle against FGM may be a long, hard one, in Ekiti State. I support the eradication of FGC—Oba Samuel AdejimiAdu-Alagado, Agirilala-Ogbenuotesoro II, the Ogoga of Ikere-Ekiti.According to the UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Research of FGM/C in 6 States, Ikere Local Government Area is one of the LGAs with a high prevalence rate of female genital cutting, at 79.5 per cent.
But, Oba Samuel Adejimi Adu-Alagado, Agirilala-Ogbenuotesoro II, the Ogoga of Ikere-Ekiti, refutes this statistics. “Who said so?” he asked, noting that the practice of FGC in the community does not mean it was that high. Comparing the cutting of the girl-child in Ikere to the tradition of the Jews, Ogoga said it was an age-long custom of the Yorubas that travelled from one generation to the other. However, he explained that the practice had to be stopped, with the advent of technology.
According to him, children are vulnerable to different kinds of diseases because the circumcisers are not properly trained and their tools not appropriately sterilised. “So, for me, we will not want to take chances on the lives of our children. In those days it may work but of course, if a child survives or not, there’s nothing you will do to the practitioner. So, today, we are in the position to protect our children, therefore, we will prefer, in fact, we are insisting that, the culture dies. For me, I support whole heartedly that female circumcision should be abolished,” he said.
Explaining that he has been doing his bit by sending messages through his chiefs, who are representatives of each clan in the community, to their people, he also promised to be willing to collaborate with any institution advocating against FGC in his community.
While noting to discuss the subject matter during the quarterly town hall meeting, Ogoga promised to have a meeting with circumcisers in order to advise them on other professions they could engage in to earn a living.“Of course, if I do not call a practitioner to come and do it for my child, they will not come here, so, our target is the ordinary folks,” he said, noting that the people have to be educated on the reasons why they do not need the services of a circumciser.
The Ogoga also assured that, his institution is working to ensure that health organisations in his community are carrying out their work, however, their efforts has to be complemented by the government. According to him, asides educating the people on why they should use modern health care, infrastructures like hospitals, doctors, nurses and equipment are needed to promote good health. Female circumcision is not my business— Oba AyorindeIloro-Faboro, Ajiboye III, Olojudo of Ido-Ekiti
The UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Research of FGM/C in 6 States, reveals that Ido/OsiLocal Government Area, has a 65.8 per cent prevalence rate, the 5th highest in Ekiti State but, Oba AyorindeIloro-Faboro, Ajiboye III, Olojudo of Ido-Ekiti, says FGC is a private matter and does not need government interference.
“It’s your choice whether to do it or not. I don’t think the government or anybody should interfere in personal things because for some of us, circumcision is a religious rite, the government should not interfere in trivial things like that. For me, it’s very trivial.”According to him, Female Genital Cutting is done between the eighth day and a month from when a baby is born and many women are oblivious to it because it does not leave a scar.
“It is female circumcision and not mutilation. It is the white people that put it in our head that it is bad. We shouldn’t swallow all they say. Some women insist that is what they want for their children. Some women still do it.”While noting that circumcision could only be tagged wrong if it would cause some anatomical issues like vaginal tear, the king was quick to add that women who did it in times past had no problems.
Oba Iloro-Faboro also explained that he is not interested in talking to his people to stop circumcising their girl-child because, “it is not my business. It’s the least of my problems. It doesn’t concern me.”He believed there were traditions worse than FGC, like the killing of twins that was practised in the past and was stopped because people knew it was evil. Oba Iloro-Faboro further said that, in his eight year on the throne, nobody had complained to him about any problem arising from circumcising their daughters.
He explained that people, who run abroad seeking asylum because of FGC were only lying because they know it is banned abroad. “Because Oyinbo people call it genital mutilation and because they are looking for visa, they’ll go abroad and say, ‘they want to circumcise me,’ and they know they are lying and God will punish them for it. They’re just damaging our reputation because of their stupidity.”
While noting that constant education is one of the ways to stop a cause in Ido, Oba Iloro-Faboro explained that the people must be convinced with cogent reasons because “people are very intelligent, if they think what you are saying is bullshit; they will not listen to you.”
Educate people on the negative effect of FGC and back it up with statistics-Oba Joseph Adebayo Adewole, Owa Ajero of Ijero-Ekiti.For the Owa Ajero of Ijero-Ekiti, Oba Joseph Adebayo Adewole, female genital cutting is part and parcel of the people of Ijero as the people believe that a woman who is not cut will be promiscuous.
According to him, it is hard to see a woman who is not circumcised in those days because it is culture, but, for someone who is not circumcised, people may not know because it is kept a secret.
Oba Adewole explained that he supports the awareness against female genital cutting because it is not good for women.“I am an enlightened person. I believe everything that the health officials are telling us that it is not good for women and that is my personal belief now and that’s what I’ve been encouraging my people to adopt. For male, it is okay, for female, they should stop it.” Oba Adewole noted that one of the reasons some people may be kicking against the message was because of the influence of religious beliefs.
According to him, even when the Bible and Koran clearly speaks against it, some people still go ahead with it because they believe both books are partial towards men. “Some people believe that once it is good for the male, it is good for the female and applicable to the female. So, the fact that the bible doesn’t talk about female circumcision is assumed that once you do it for the male, you do it for the female also.”He explained that constant education together with the statistics of the negative effect of FGC would aid the acceptance of the message.
However, “No matter what you do, people are still inclined to their own beliefs more than anything. People want to listen to their conscience more than people. Those who know that something is not good and wants to eradicate it need to preach it and continue to admonish and show people evidences of negative side effects. It is only when people see that kind of evidences that they believe,” Oba Adewole noted.Reporting for this story was supported by Onelife Initiative for Human Development and Global Media Campaign to End FGM.
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