With the secrecy, doubt and uncertainty of this practise, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) has been criticised as a fundamental violation of the human rights of girls and women. This week our Correspondent Ebi Kesiena dives in to this topic that has remained underreported.
The women folks have for a long time been at the receiving end of crude and archaic cultural practices in Nigeria that serve no purpose but objectivise them and assault their very essence of humanity and existence. That such things as female circumcision is still pronounced in the 21st century in a supposed developing world leaves much to be desired.
With series of advocacy campaigns and indeed legal frameworks to permanently eliminate from the human society any such thing as exclusion of women from family inheritance, drinking of water used in washing the body of a late husband to prove the wife’s innocence over his death, child/forced marriage, pay disparity between a male and female worker and indeed female circumcision, these demeaning practices still in daily basis rare their ugly heads in our national life.
For Mrs. Yemisi Fowokan, being a woman in Nigeria has been a burden she has since infancy carried, even to adulthood and as a mother. As a little girl born in Lagos State, it took the stiff resistance of her father to send her to school in a society where Western education for the girl child is seen as a sheer waste of time, if not a taboo. Her kinsmen had insisted that she is married off to a betrothed husband against her wish.
While she was still trying to weather the storm, plots were being intensified to meet out another painful experience to her; circumcision at the age of 17. This led her to flee from her community of birth to her maternal home in another state where she stayed till, she completed her education and of course, escaped having her skin ripped off in the name of circumcision.
Sadly, Mrs. Fowokan is not alone in this horrifying practice. She represents millions of Nigerian ladies who at one point or the other have been subjected to series of inhuman treatments which the society sees as ‘culture’. How can we forget a practice in some parts of the Nigerian country where a widow naturally becomes an inheritance of a willing relative of the late husband, whether she (bereaved wife) obliges to it or not? How can we forget a practice in parts of our country where a widow sleeps in the same room with the corpse of her late husband for days and weeks as a ‘cultural necessity’.
As if she was destined to drink from the cup of sorrow and anguish, usually coated as a ‘cultural necessity’, Mrs. Fowokan today is on her heels again. This time, not for her sake but for the sake of her only daughter, Anjola Fowokan, 5, whom her father’s community has vowed that she must present herself for circumcision ‘as the culture demands’ or be banished as not to ‘contaminate’ other children in the community whose private parts have been painfully mutilated in the name of circumcision.
Fowokan who narrated her ordeal in the hands of her in-laws who are determined to circumcise her daughter disregarding the age of the girl, the psychological effect act, and also if she will ever recover from the pains that will be inflicted on her in the process.
“It started in May 2015 when I got married, as soon as I got pregnant, the trouble began when my husband family said they will circumcise my baby that it’s a culture in their village in Ogun state. I delivered my baby in January 12 2016, they came to visit, then told me again at the hospital that my daughter will be taken for circumcision, if not I will be killed.
“My husband got angry with his family telling them how painful it is to circumcise a girl not to talk of a new born baby so he refused, they kept on threatening us, we left lagos to a village in Agbowa town to start leaving in 2017.
“At the time my husband had to shuttle from Agbowa to Lagos to go to work so we could avoid them as the pressure became unbearable. His family found out about our whereabout and started persuading us again, they kept sending different people to us saying different things than concerns me and my daughter.
“Sometimes in August 2018, my husband fell sick and in Dec 24th 2018, I lost him to the cold hands of death leaving me with a 2-year-old child. We concluded the burial rites and it was at the burial ground his family members started threatening again,” she said.
Several attempts to seek refuge in the country since 2019 when this evil plot started have fatally failed as she is being trailed, accused of hiding her daughter from fulfilling a ‘cultural necessity’. When the pressure became unbearable, she fled to Kaduna where about two months later in 2020, June precisely, she was trailed by 3 dangerous armed men who had attempted to abduct her daughter for a possible forceful circumcision.
This further sent chills down her spine as she immediately relocated to Abia, along with her daughter in an attempt to save her from the pain of having her skin butchered by desperate elements who obviously do not mean well for her, with its octopus health complications. Just when the mother and daughter assumed that time has finally come to breathe the air of freedom, they started noticing unusual faces who from a mere look appeared suspicious. Upon alerting the security agencies, no concrete action was taken.
The climax of it all was when a reliable source informed Mrs. Fowokan that she and her daughter were again being trailed by the same unconscionable individuals who have vowed not to let Anjola be until she submits herself for circumcision ‘as the tradition demands’.