The material and findings used below is extracted from 28 too Many’s October 2016 edition of Key FGM findings in Nigeria.
Facts
  • In Nigeria, the estimated prevalence of FGM among women aged 15 to 49 is 24.8%.
  • 20 million women and girls in Nigeria have undergone FGM. 
This represents 10% of the global total. Zones in Nigeria with the highest FGM prevalence are South East (49%) and South West (47.5%). Osun State records the highest prevalence at 76.6%. 
North East Zone has the lowest prevalence (2.9%) and the State of Katsina in North West Zone records the lowest prevalence at 0.1%.  However, prevalence figures according to place of residence may not be an indicator of where FGM has actually taken place. 
  • Data shows that 32.3% of Nigerian women aged 15 to 49 living in urban areas have undergone FGM, compared with 19.3% of women living in rural areas. 
  • Prevalence of FGM among girls under 14, however, is almost equal between those living in urban areas (16.8%) and those in rural areas (17%). 
Why
  • The main reason that is given for practising FGM in Nigeria is to ‘preserve virginity/prevent extra-marital sex’. This was cited by 11.2% of women and 17.3% of men who had heard of FGM in Nigeria, particularly in the oldest age-group (45 to 49). 
  • Women then cited ‘social acceptance’ and ‘better marriage prospects’ as reasons for practicing FGM. ‘More sexual pleasure for a man was also cited by men. 
  • Although FGM is not required by any religious scripture, overall, 15% of women and 23.6% of men believe it is required by their religion, particularly men (39.9%) and women (33.1%) practising traditionalist religions and men (30%) practising Islam.
Age 
FGM is most likely to take place in Nigeria before a girl reaches the age of five. Girls are less likely to be cut after the age of 15. 
Many girls are cut as infants (16% of girls aged 0 to 14 undergo FGM before their first birthday), and most women (82%) aged 15 to 49 who have had FGM state that they were cut before the age of five. 
Types 
  • 24.9% have experienced angurya (scraping of tissue surrounding the opening of the vagina); 
  • 5.1% have experienced gishiri (cutting of the vagina); and 
  • 5.1% have experienced the use of corrosive substances. 
  • Among girls aged 0 to 14 who undergo FGM, 2.7% are ‘sewn closed’ (i.e. infibulated – Type III). 
  • Type III is highest among Catholic, other Christian and traditionalist women; angurya and gushiri (Type IV) are most common among Muslim women. 
  • Type I (cut, no flesh removed/nicked)  – 5.8% 
  • Type II (cut, flesh removed)  – 62.6% 
  • Type III (sewn closed, infibulation) – 5.3% 
  • Undetermined/Not sure/Don’t know – 26.3% 

Practitioners 

86.6% of girls and 79.5% of women are cut by ‘traditional agents’. The majority of these agents are what the DHS calls ‘traditional circumcisers’. However, 2.5% of these girls and 7% of these women were cut by ‘traditional birth attendants’. Of girls and women who have undergone FGM, medical professionals (doctors, nurses/midwives and other health professionals) cut 11.9% and 12.7% respectively. Such figures suggest that ‘traditional agents’ may now be used slightly more often. 

Law

In May 2015, a federal law was passed in Nigeria banning FGM and other harmful traditional practices, but this Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act (VAPP) only applies to the Federal Capital Territory of Abuja. 
It is up to each of the 36 states to pass similar legislation in its territory. 13 states already have similar laws in place; however, there remains an inconsistency between the passing and enforcement of laws. 

Attitudes
  • Overall, 64.3% of women and 62.1% of men believe that FGM should be stopped in Nigeria. The strongest support among women for an end to the practice is from those who have not undergone FGM (76.2%), when compared with those who have (50%). Attitudes towards FGM among women aged 15 to 49 also vary according to residence, education and wealth.

Most at risk

Although from available data the prevalence of FGM appears to be highest among wealthier, better-educated Nigerian women who live in urban areas, these same women are the least likely to have their daughters cut before the age of 15. This same group of women is also most in favour of ending the practice. 

​Conversely, although the prevalence of FGM appears to be lowest among poorer Nigerian women with little or no education who live in rural areas, these women are more likely to have their daughters cut. In other words, this cohort is the most likely to continue the practice, and shows the highest level of support for its continuation. 
 
 
 

NEXT STEPS

 What do individuals and anti-FGM programs need to consider?  The Nigerian population is becoming increasingly mobile, both socially and economically, resulting in increased intermarriage and a blurring of traditional places of residence, ethnicity and religious distinctions in the practice of FGM.  There is now a large, young population with increased access to information through mobile phones, and an increased use of social media offers new opportunities for transmitting information about the dangers of FGM.  Expanding the use of media tools and involving key public figures in the anti-FGM movement, including from the entertainment and sports sectors, is key to appealing to the younger generation.  Including FGM in the school curriculum is essential to ensure approved information and education tools are used.  Awareness-raising should take place among men and boys as well as women and girls, and be supported by engaging those in public office (at all levels).  Faith leaders and traditional leaders are critical to the process of raising awareness in communities where religion is cited as a reason for the continuation of FGM. 
A major challenge is to persuade and support the traditional practitioners of FGM to give up a practice that continues to be an important part of their livelihood and status in Nigerian communities.  28 Too Many has been unable to find a network that brings organisations together in Nigeria. Setting up such a network at a federal level, with state-level subsidiaries, would facilitate exchanges of information and ideas as to what works most effectively to achieve the abandonment of FGM.
 

WHAT CAN INDIVIDUALS DO TO HELP? 

One of the most important elements of international human rights law is that the State has responsibility for upholding those rights. However, it is not left to the state alone; individuals have a huge role to play because the problem is a complex one that is pervasive and upheld by individual practitioners. Thus some education about FGM and its practice is important. From the perspective of human rights adjudication and the establishment of fundamental precepts, therefore, the work has been done. But implementation is lacking. 

​Failure to agree to undergo FGM may alienate a girl from society. One has to imagine what is it like in real life and what is going on in countries where female genital mutilation is still practiced. If women do not conform to the traditional, social and cultural norms that exist in these countries, they risk becoming social outcasts. 

For women who reject the practice, in some countries it is virtually impossible to get married since women depend on men almost entirely to be their protectors and providers. If one considers land rights and education rights or the whole range of socio- economic rights which are associated with the status of women in society, one realizes that in order to enjoy any of those rights women have to submit to this procedure, which is tantamount to torture. So what should the State do? Many States have passed legislation prohibiting female genital mutilation, but what about enforcement? We are still a long way from achieving active implementation. If women live in a society that forces them to undergo this procedure in order to exist in society, then we have a situation of discrimination compounded by further discrimination. We should all become actors creating conversations, speaking up against this practice and pushing for better policy enforcement against the violation of the rights of women, because their happiness is consequential to global peace.