Nigeria Finally Outlaws Female Genital Mutilation

Jun 8, 2015 at 2:31 pm |
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Nigeria's Goodluck Jonathan, who won the ruling party's nomination for April's presidential vote, gestures during the presidential primaries of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party in Abuja early January 14, 2011. Nigeria's ruling party nominated incumbent Goodluck Jonathan as its presidential candidate for April's landmark vote after he fended off a primary challenge from the mainly Muslim north. AFP PHOTO PIUS UTOMI EKPEI (Photo credit should read PIUS UTOMI EKPEI/AFP/Getty Images)

Ex-Nigerian President, Goodluck Jonathan. (PIUS UTOMI EKPEI/AFP/Getty Images)

 

Nigeria has made huge strides against female genital mutilation this week as a new law was enacted outlawing the violent act.

The law, entitled the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act 2015, was passed by the nation’s senate on May 5th and recently fell into standing (after having sat with the House of Representatives since 2007 and being fought for for over 13 years.)

The law’s signing was the final moonshot of ex-president Goodluck Jonathan, who was succeeded by new president Muhammadu Buhari at the end of May.

Until now there have been no laws protecting women against gender-based violence.

Female genital mutilation, otherwise known as FGM, is the act of removing the external female genitalia, usually in an attempt to control women’s sexuality through the lens of gender inequality and under the guise ‘preparing’ a girl for marriage or reducing their sexual appetites. According to UNICEF, even though almost a quarter of Nigerian women between the ages of 15-49 have undergone the procedure (typically carried out by women), there are no known benefits to ‘female castration.’ The act of female genital cutting has been documented in 28 different countries in Africa as well as many different parts of the Middle East, and some areas in Asia.

While everyone is celebrating the passing of the new law, gender-equality activists remain concerned about its enforcement and the ultimate necessity of updating the moral zeitgeist of the country’s culture in order to eradicate the practice entirely. “Ending violence against women and girls requires investment, not just laws written in statute books, “Stella Mukasa, director of Gender, Violence and Rights at the International Center for Research on Women wrote for an article in The Guardian. “It is crucial that we scale up efforts to change traditional cultural views that underpin violence against women. Only then will this harmful practice be eliminated.”

Find out more on how you can help fight female genital cutting.

This is a huge step forward, but now more than 125 million women worldwide must live with the effects of genital mutilation.