Everything You Need To Know About Female Genital Mutilation in Nigeria

Female genital mutilation in Nigeria

Written by Maryam Saleh

Maryam Saleh is a final year nursing student in Ahmadu Bello University, who is based in Zaria. She believes in helping others and putting a smile on their faces. She has a passion for writing to make awareness, spread the word and clear misconceptions and doubts, especially about health. Her goals are to prevent illness, promote health and spread knowledge. She likes spending most of her time reading, volunteering, sleeping and watching TV.

March 9, 2021

What is Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)?

Female genital mutilation (FGM), also known as female genital cutting or female circumcision is an unhealthy traditional practice done on girls and women worldwide. It is widely recognized as a violation of human rights as it is an extreme form of discrimination against women. The practice is customarily a family tradition that the young female between the ages of 0-15 would experience.

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is defined as all procedures which involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia for cultural or any other unhealthy reasons. It is traditionally the specialization of traditional leaders, traditional birth attendants, or members of the community known for the work. Now, even healthcare attendants are complicit in this harmful practice.

FGM varies from country to country, tribes, religion, state, and cultural setting. However, no continent in the world has been exempted. It is widely practiced in Nigeria. With 19.9 million women who have undergone FGM worldwide, Nigeria has the third highest number in the world.

FGM In Nigeria is mostly practiced in the South South, South East, and South West, though a few cases can be found in the Northern part of the country. It is carried out at a very young age (minors) while there is no possibility of the individual’s consent.

Female circumcision in Nigeria is a practice whose origin and importance are covered in secrecy, uncertainty, and confusion.

Types of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Nigeria

FGM In Nigeria are of four types;

Type I

This involves the removal of the hood of the clitoris or a part of the clitoris. This is the least severe form of FGM mostly done in Southern Nigeria.

Type II

This is a more severe form of Female genital mutilation that involves the removal of the clitoris along with partial or total removal of the labia minora.

Type III

This is the most severe form of FGM. It involves the removal of the clitoris, the labia minora, and the adjacent medial part of the labia majora. Then the vaginal orifice is stitched, leaving an opening of the size of a pinhead to allow for menstrual flow or urine.

Read: Does Virginity Depend On The First Night Bleed?

Type IV

This includes all other unclassified types of FGMs including; pricking, piercing, stretching, or cutting of the vagina (gishiri), scraping of tissue surrounding the vaginal opening (angurya), stretching the clitoris and/or labia, cauterization (burning a part of a body to remove or close off the part), or the introduction of corrosive substances and herbs in the vagina to tighten or narrow it.

Type I and Type II are the most widespread form of female circumcision in Nigeria but are less harmful compared to Type III.

Effects of Female Genital Mutilation And Circumcision (FGM/C) In Nigeria

FGM results in psychological and mental trauma. The young girl is in constant fear of the procedure and after the ritual, she fears sex because of anticipated pain and dreads childbirth because of the complications caused by FGM. Such girls may not complain but end up becoming frigid and withdrawn resulting in marital disharmony.

Female genital mutilation also leads to the damage of the urethra or anus in the struggle of the victim during the procedure, which might lead to VVF (vesicovaginal fistula). VVF causes the involuntary discharge of urine, thereby letting stigmatization sets in.

Other complications and effects of FGM might include perineal tear, bleeding, infections such as STIs and HIV, reproductive tract infection, pelvic inflammatory diseases, and chronic urinary tract infection, infertility, and even death. Medical costs related to the management of the complications weigh heavily on families and health care systems.

Why FGM is Still Performed?

One might ask why is female genital mutilation is still performed despite the various complications and harms. In some societies in Nigeria, FGM is an initiation ceremony for young girls into womanhood or to ensure they protect their virginity or to protect female modesty and chastity. It is also done to increase the sexual pleasure of the husband, to enhance fertility and promote child survival for better marriage prospects, or to help the delivery of babies.

Related: 18 Things to Do When You Are Expecting a Baby

Among other societies however, the external female genitals are considered unclean and displeasing, so it is removed to promote hygiene and to provide beautification appeal.

How To Stop Female Genital Mutilation In Nigeria

Tackling in FGM in Nigeria should involve a multidisciplinary approach involving legislation, health care professionals, organizations, empowerment of the women in the society, and education of the general public at all levels with an emphasis on the dangers of FGM in society.

Stringent laws should also be made against FGM and penalties should be assigned for those who practice it.

Even though Section 6 of the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act (2015) states that “Anybody who performs or engages another to perform FGM on any person is liable to a term of imprisonment not exceeding 4 years or to a fine not exceeding N200,000 or to both”, the law has so far been ineffective.

The Improvement in education and social status of women will increase awareness of complications of FGM and therefore won’t subject themselves and their daughters to such practices.

Supporting families and communities in their efforts to abandon the practice and to improve care for those who have undergone FGM will also go a long way in ensuring female genital mutilation in Nigeria becomes a thing of the past.


Female genital mutilation in Nigeria is a harmful practice that results in so many complications for the victims and even endangers their lives. They live with the trauma throughout their lives which can bring disharmony. Even though there are low cases in the North, the most severe type is still been practiced.

Educating the community about the dangers and complications of FGM as well as legal action for all perpetrators of this act will help curb this harmful practice in Nigeria.

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