Despite VAPP Act, FGM perpetrators still walk free, Munachiso Okoli laments

A child rights advocate, Munachiso Okoli, has called on the Federal and state governments to protect the rights of women and girls from all forms of violence and abuse, especially from Female Genital Mutilation, by implementing the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act, 2015.

Okoli says it is regrettable that since the enactment of the VAPP Act, which she says provides for a set of punishments for perpetrators of FGM, no arrest has been made, lamenting that FGM is still practised in Nigeria despite the Act.

According to her, only nine states and the Federal Capital Territory have implemented the Act.

Speaking in an exclusive interview with PUNCH HealthWise on Wednesday, Okoli, who is the Coordinator, Girdle Network Nigeria, Abuja chapter, said, “The challenge we are facing is that it has only been implemented in nine states and the FCT.

“The states are Lagos, Osun, Ondo, Ekiti, Bayelsa, Edo, Cross River, Rivers, Anambra and FCT.

“The law stipulates that anybody who performs or engages another to perform FGM on any person is liable to a term of imprisonment not exceeding four years or to a fine not exceeding N200,000 or to both.

“The Act also provided that anybody who attempts, aids, abets, or incites another to carry out FGM is liable to a term not exceeding two years imprisonment or to a fine not exceeding N100,000 or to both.

“The challenge has been poor implementation.

“Since the signing of this law in 2015, we have not had any arrest of FGM perpetrators.

“Yet, every year in Africa, about 3 million girls are circumcised and Nigeria has the second highest number of girls circumcised in Africa.”

The child rights advocate listed Osun, Ebonyi, Ekiti, Imo and Oyo states as the top five states in Nigeria with the highest prevalence of FGM, saying the practice has no value whatsoever to mental health, physical health, society, education, economy and every aspect of life.

“Health risks and complications are common and life threatening.

“Some are transmission of HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted infections, painful or blocked menses, recurrent urinary tract infections, urine retention from swelling and/or blockage of the urethra.

“Others are hemorrhage leading to shock and anaemia, perineal pains and complications during child birth which could lead to loss of mother and child”, she said.

According to the World Health Organisation, FGM has no health benefits, and it harms girls and women in many ways.

Data from the WHO shows that FGM causes multiple sexual health problems for the survivors, such as damage to a female’s anatomic structures that are directly involved in sexual function, and can therefore have an effect on the victim’s sexual health and well-being.

Online sources say about 20 million women and girls in Nigeria have undergone FGM.

The United Nations Population Fund had, in April 2020, projected that due to disruption of programmes to prevent FGM in response to the COVID-19, two million FGM cases might occur over the next decade that could have been averted.

To avert the practice in Nigeria, Okoli identified dialogue as basically the way forward.

“We have the bottom upper approach and top down approach. “There are six elements for female genital mutilation/circumcision all enclosed in dialogue”, she noted.

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