According to UNICEF, the prevalence of Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) in Nigeria is 27%, and 80% of those who experience FGM/C before their 5th birthday.
Terre des Femmes notes that FGM/C prevalence varies among Nigeria’s geopolitical zones. While in the northeast only 4% of girls and women are affected, 48% are affected in the southwest. Nigeria’s Christian regions have a higher FGM/C prevalence. The type of FGM/C varies according to region and ethnic group; infibulation is most common in the north of the country and commonly practised by the Hausa and Kanuri ethnic groups, while clitoridectomy and excision are more common in the south and are commonly practised by the Yoruba ethnic group. The Igbo and Ijaw practise all three types. The Fula ethnic group does not practise FGM/C. Two other forms of FGM/C are practised in Nigeria: angurya, scraping of the vaginal opening, and gishir, an episiotomy, both in order to enlarge the vaginal opening to facilitate penetration for early marriage, which is common in Nigeria.
In 70% of cases, FGM/C is performed by a traditional practitioner, while the remaining 30% of cases are performed by medical professionals. Reasons for practising FGM/C include the belief that women who have not been cut are promiscuous, unclean, unattractive, and will be unable to find a husband. It is also believed that the clitoris poses a health risk for babies and that a male baby can die if he comes in contact with it. Other reasons include the belief that FGM/C is a religious duty, that it preserves a girl’s virginity before marriage and that without it a woman cannot gain social acceptance.
Between 1999 and 2006, some states (Edo, Bayelsa, Cross River, Rivers, Ebonyi, Delta, Ogun, Osun, Ondo, Ekiti and Oyo, according to Terre des Femmes) in Nigeria passed legislation banning FGM/C. Nigeria acceded to the ICESCR in 1993, ratified CEDAW in 1985, the CRC in 1991 and the Banjul Charter in 1983.
See also 28 Too Many’s country profile on Nigeria.
FGM/C Country of Origin Experts for Nigeria
Jane Anyaegbunam was born in Agbor, Nigeria and came to the UK in 1967 to study psychiatric nursing at Surrey. She became a midwife in South End and through this occupation, in which she worked for 18 years, delivering the babies of women who had undergone FGM/C, became interested in FGM/C issues. She attended the University of Hertfordshire to study Health Visiting and practised as a Health Visitor with a specialization in Child Protection. Jane has published on and given talks about FGM/C. She retired in January 2009 and is now doing voluntary work as Health Educator for 28 Too Many, an organization working and campaigning to eradicate female genital mutilation. Jane has served as an expert witness on FGM/C on three occasions.