The Federal Government in collaboration with some NGOs on Monday in Abuja sought the inclusion of males to transform social and gender norms to end Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).
Several NGOs, Civil Society Organisations, law enforcement agencies, religious and traditional leaders also pledged their commitment to end FGM and ensure perpetrators were prosecuted.
They made this known at the 2023 International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM.
The forum was organised by the Federal Ministries of Health, Women Affairs and Justice under the USAID Momentum Safe Surgery in Family Planning and Obstetrics (MSSFPO) project.
Addressing the forum, Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, described FGM as human rights violation, which had no health benefits, but led to severe bleeding, deaths, infection, and complications at childbirth.
Ehanire lamented that FGM was still prevalent nationwide, hence the need to include males in the fight to eliminate it to enable Nigeria to meet the Social Development Goals global target of ending it by 2030.
He lamented also that some people still consult health workers to carry out FGM, urging the public to report such persons to law enforcement agencies for arrest and prosecution.
“They don’t come to health facilities where you can catch them and sack the health personnel involved.
“They have people in communities who conduct the FGM. Some people know them, but they don’t lodge reports.
“These are the ones you need to blame and because you don’t report, the Minister of Justice or the police cannot arrest them.
“If you are tolerating the practice by keeping quiet, you take the blame and not the police,” he said.
In her remarks, Minister of Women Affairs, Mrs Pauline Tallen, lamented that Nigeria ranked third in Africa in FGM after Egypt and Ethiopia.
Tallen noted that in spite of laws and policies prohibiting FGM, some cultures still regarded it as the way to go, hence the need for more enlightenment.
“These laws carry maximum penalties for perpetrators, which is why we must carry along the Ministries of Justice, Information, Education, Youths and Sports at all levels, if we must succeed,” she said.
The minister added that there was also the need for collaboration with traditional, religious and community leaders as well as the entertainment industry and the media to curb the practice.
“I appeal to the Federal Ministry of Health and to all well-meaning Nigerians to support girls and women suffering from FGM complications and from all other forms of violence and abuse against women,” she said.
Also addressing the forum, Dr Kabiru Attah, MSSFPO Project Manager in Nigeria, said it was working closely with health workers to ensure the stoppage of FGM.
He said the 2023 theme: “Partnering with men and boys to transform social and gender norms to FGM’’ was a clarion call for all to be involved in ending FGM before 2030.
“The theme idea is to bring boys and men on board because this FGM is basically a cultural practice and the men are the custodians of cultures.
“We need to work closely with traditional and religious leaders, and with young boys, who will become men in the future to ensure that we are in partnership to end FGM by 2030,” he stressed.
In another contribution, Ms Uller Mueller, UNFPA Country Representative in Nigeria stressed the need to support women empowerment, gender equality and the rights of women and children.
“We remain committed to end FGM through our transformative goals. We implore governments at all levels to show action behind the commitment.
“One of the key priorities of UNFPA is to end FGM. We must stop the cut. We have to find a way; we must stand together and speak with one voice,” Mueller charged.