By: Serena Crawford
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan is making sure that he leaves his position in office on a high note. He has recently criminalized female gen!tal mutilation in Nigeria. This is a huge step in women’s rights for the country. President Jonathan has set the punishment for violating the law at four years in prison and a fine of 200,000 naira which equals around $1,000.
There are so many women in Africa who are forced to have this procedure done and advocates for human rights are hoping that other African countries will take the initiative to follow in Nigeria’s lead and ban the practice. They have estimated that 19.9 million women in Nigeria alone have had to go through this painful procedure that has been around for a long time. A 2013 study by the United Nations Children’s Fund reveled that 125 million women are believed to have undergone FGM. This comes from 29 different countries. Out of those countries, 27 are in Africa.
This was a very controversial issue and is one that many leaders do not want to have to deal with when it comes to facing the voters. Director of the Africa Center, J. Peter Pham, states that President Jonathan did the new elected president, Muhammadu Buhari, a huge favor by enacting this law before he took his place in office so that he would not have to face any backlash that may come his way. FGM is a sort of tradition in African countries and there are many who are opposed to its criminalization.
There are many different reasons that FGM is carried out but it is still a human rights violation. It is performed generally on girls from birth to 15 years old. It is said to be done to prepare them for marriage and to discourage them from having s*x before they are married. The process involves cutting and removing the external female gen!talia. There are no medical benefits whatsoever for this procedure. There are many long-term side effects such as pain, problems urinating, infections, cysts, and infertility. The girls are not given any choice in the matter. The procedure is often performed by medical professionals who deliver babies and perform circumcisions on males.