In the world today, Nigeria is known for its many cultural traditions given its diverse range of ethnicity and tribes that it houses, while many of these traditions promote unity and hospitality, there are some that are obnoxious as well, ranging from ritual bodily incisions, initiations, dedication, scarification to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), which need to be done away with.
These obnoxious traditions have since been condemned by the World Health Organisation (WHO) because of the adverse health consequences as exemplified by the ailments and psychological effects that do arise from the said traditions. Currently, many citizens are still crying in silence as these traditions have defied civilization and laws in Nigeria.
In many parts of the country, ritual bodily incisions are seen as means of identification and medication. While it is regarded as a ritual of identification in some parts, others see it as a sacred tradition for the royal families.
For the first sons in most of the royal families in Ughelli North Local government area of Delta State, bodily incisions are part of a larger ceremony of initiating the first sons into the royal families.
According to a royal victim (name withheld), bodily incisions are meant to be inscribed on the first sons who are born into royal families.
“Bodily incision is part of the naming ceremony of the first son into the royal family and it is called the ancestral line of succession.
“It is to fortify the new prince(s) against attacks that could come from rivals and also initiate into the occultic dedication to the ancestral deity of the land. And any act of defiance or objections does lead to ostracizing and sometimes forceful kidnapping,” he said.
The victim added that most individuals, who have gone through the ancestral ceremony at a very tender age, never understood the ramifications of the dedications.
Further findings showed that many well-heeled persons, like Princes and Princesses from royal homes eloped from Ughelli and other parts of Delta State to different parts of the world to evade incisions.
In Edo State for instance, an ancient scarification tradition, which is still practiced till date, is referred to as “Ude”. The tradition holds children, who suffered strange illness at infancy, are marked with ritual incisions in the abdominal region, back and face to cure them from the alleged ailment and ward off future attacks.
In the traditional Yoruba society (South Western part of Nigeria), every child is born into patrilineal kindred “Idile baba”, which shares a particular mark. These marks, which are usually facial are worn by each child born into the extended family and it assigns the child full kindred membership rights.
Furthermore, Northern states like Niger, Adamawa, Jigawa, Bauchi,Yobe and Borno are not exempted from incisions and Female Genital Mutilation.
FGM is cutting or removing part or completely the external female genital organ for no medical reason other than tradition. Young females between the ages 0-15 are usually victims made to undergo the horror.
Worried by the dangers posed by the practice, the Federal Government has promulgated a law in May 2015, banning this crude tradition that has been generally described as violence against women.
The Law criminalises FGM except for medical reasons when the procedure is performed by a doctor. It further states that it is an offence for any woman to offer herself for FGM other than medical reasons. Some states like Bayelsa, Cross Rivers, Edo, Ogun, Osun and Delta have domesticated the FMG legislation.
In spite of the policies and International laws, FGM is a continued practice in Nigeria and forceful implementation on women married to men from these regions are unstoppable.
However, an advocacy visits to Ughelli North, comprising major towns such as Ughelli North, Ughelli II, Orogun, Agbarho, Agbarha, Ufuoma, Oteri, Evwreni and Uduere, with a population of 321,028, going by the 2006 census, recently showed that female genital mutilation is still in practice.
Mrs. Eunice Otumemine explained that, with the ban and the efforts of advocacy groups, the practice has declined but it is still practiced in many communities in Ughelli North Local Government Area of Delta State.
Another indigene, Mrs. Eyde Joseph hinted that FGM (circumcision) is usually carried out few days after the birth of the female child, but before it was equally carried out on adults including women who married from other regions to men in the area.
She added it was carried out by traditional birth attendants who use equipment such as razor, scissors, knives and other sharp objects to carry out the circumcision.
Mrs. Precious Emakpor, on her part, said that they used to be a ceremony in which the clitorises of young adult girls are removed as a sign of passage to puberty.
Emakpor narrated that nowadays, most people go to the hospital or health centres to do the circumcision.
In addition, Otumemine explained that female genital mutilation is customary among the Urhobos adding that they believe it curbs them of promiscuity, apart from making them to be clean and free of evil spirits. “It is a sign of complete womanhood,” she said.
Mr. Akpovona Omene quoted that there is no law prohibiting female genital mutilation in the area, just as there is no punishment for anyone who refuses to carry out the circumcision on his or her children.
Omene added that the practice is now outdated among enlightened couples in the area because of the adverse health implications on victims at adulthood, pregnancy and at childbearing.
Esther Aghogho, 15, a victim of female genital mutilation in the area said, she was circumcised at the age of 15.
While narrating the traumatic experience, Aghogho said she bled profusely amid excruciating pain when she was cut. She said that the incident has continued to haunt her each time she gave birth to each of her six children.
The World Health Organisation insists that FGM has no health benefits but only harms girls and women in many ways including removing and injuring healthy and normal female genital tissue, interfering with the natural functions of girls’ and women’s bodies.
“FGM is a harmful practice and is unacceptable from a human rights as well as a public health perspective, regardless of who performs it. Some health care providers perform FGM, but WHO is opposed to all forms of FGM and strongly urges health care providers to not carry out FGM even when their patient or their patient’s family requests it,” it added.
Dr. Esther Oluwatosin Somefun, Gender and Reproductive Health Analyst, said, “Due to the complications of FGM, women find it difficult to enjoy sex because the external female organ, the clitoris which ensures lubrication during sex has been cut off. In some cases, the external organs have been sewn up, with some of infertility, pelvic inflammatory infections, menstrual pains, keloids, obstructed labour.”
Dr. Geoffrey Njoku, Communication Specialist, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Nigeria, the agency condemned the FGM deadly complications, saying, it is a violation of human’s rights.
She said, “It violates women’s rights to sexual and reproductive health, physical integrity, non-discrimination and freedom from cruel or degrading treatment. It is also a violation of medical ethics: Female genital mutilation is never safe, no matter who carries it out or how clean the venue is.”
Many Nigerians posited that, all the traditions and customs that do not add value to the dignity of human beings should be totally abolished.
Also, people called for increased advocacy, enlightenment and enforcement of the law to eradicate the ugly practice.