World Celebrates As Nigeria Becomes First African Country To Ban Female Genital Multilation

World Celebrates As Nigeria Becomes First African Country To Ban Female Genital Multilation

Nigeria continues to lead the way in Africa, a continent with so much promise yet so little fulfillment, this time making African history by becoming the first country to outlaw female genital mutilation.

The ban came as a result of the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act 2015, which passed the Senate on May 5th and cam into law last week.

The legislation was one of the last acts by popular outgoing president Goodluck Jonathan and cements his legacy as one of Africa's best-ever leaders. Muhammadu Buhari, his successor, was sworn into office last week.

Female genital mutilation or 'cutting' as most in the country call it is the act of either partially or totally removing the external female genitalia.

According to UNICEF "more than 130 million girls and women have experienced cutting in 29 countries in Africa and the Middle East where the practice is most common."

While there has been progress on the issue, which UNICEF reports is now one-third less likely to undergo today than 30 years ago, the practice is still widespread.

The new Nigerian law criminalizes the procedure, and the hope is that the ban will be strongly enforced to combat pre-existing societal pressures.

The World Health Organization strongly discourages the practice due to immediate harmful effects that include uncontrolled bleeding, bacterial infection, open sores, as well as long-term consequences that include childbirth complications, infertility, and recurring bladder infections.

UNICEF research has found that communities who practice the cruel tradition usually do so to reduce sexual desire in women and to initiate girls to womanhood.

According to 2014 UN data, over one quarter of the women in Nigeria have undergone cutting.

Stella Mukasa, director at the International Center for Research on Women, explains that the complexity of the issue means enforcement must be widespread.

"It is crucial that we scale up efforts to change traditional cultural views that underpin violence against women," she wrote in an article. "Only then will this harmful practice be eliminated.”

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