A recent decision by the First Lady of Ekiti State, Mrs. Bisi Fayemi, to end female genital mutilation is something to cheer, writes Victor Ogunje
In Nigeria, it is assumed that amnesty is extended only to those involved in armed conflict. That is far from the truth.
The Ekiti First Lady, Erelu Bisi Fayemi, recently extended amnesty to local perpetrators of female genital mutilation (FGM).
A critical look at the activities of Ekiti first lady since her husband, Dr. Kayode Fayemi returned to office indicate her commitment to stop social angst and cultural barriers against women.
Recently, the first lady approached the Ekiti State House of Assembly, seeking amendment to the Ekiti State Gender Based Violence Prohibition Law, 2012. The kernel of the amendment was to ensure stringent capital punishments for perpetrators of rape and other social scourges against women.
Offenders were hitherto slammed with five years imprisonment, but with this amendment, the penalty is now life jail. Part of the amendments being desperately sought included, medical castration of perpetrators, which pundits believed would stem the tide and tighten noose on randy old and young men with unbridled libido for sex.
Going by statistics released by internationally reputed organisations like the World Health Organisation and United Nations Children Endowment Fund, Ekiti is second in ranking in FGM practice in Nigeria.
This startling revelation actually spurred Mrs Fayemi to picking up the gauntlet against the perpetrators, whilst the diplomacy of amnesty seems to be her best bet in achieving zero practice of the outdated system in this context.
It was, however, baffling that the locals, who were found to be strong-willed, fanatical and unrepentant with tradition, were willingly surrendering their instruments across all the 16 local government headquarters, where Mrs. Fayemi interacted with women and also empowered them.
The arms surrendering scheme was done in Aramoko, Ado, Ikole, Omuo, Ikere and other major headquarters of the 16 local government councils.
In a rare show of love wrapped in diplomacy, the first lady assured the repentant FGM practitioners that the state government was prepared to empower those, who genuinely stop female genital mutilation, for the sake of womanhood.
This initiative by Mrs. Fayemi could be predicated on the fact that some of the practitioners derived their means of livelihood from circumcision of male and female children and that there was need to create alternative and more credible sources of income as replacement.
She said, “we are ready to empower you based on your areas of interest. Don’t go back to this business again. It has ruined the lives and marriages of many people. We have passed a law that prohibited the FGM and whoever defies it will be breaching the laws”.
In all the 16 local government areas visited, Mrs. Fayemi dropped the hint that it had become imperative that the practice of FGM stops, saying: “The unwholesome practice, had brought a lot of sexual damage to women through infectious diseases that destroys body sexual nerve cells, thereby causing marital crises in many homes.”
She also advised parents and guardians to always monitor the activities of their female children and wards in order to reduce the scourge of rape and defilement that are on the increase in the state.
The first lady, who lamented the increasing rate of teenage pregnancies in the society due to lack of attention, said the ‘operation keep girls in school’ policy of her husband’s government, had outlawed expulsion of ladies who got pregnant while in school.
Mrs. Fayemi added, “we must at all costs stop the menaces of female genital mutilation, open defecation, domestic violence against women, child trafficking and rape, defilement and other ills against girl child and women.
“The state Gender Based Violence (GBV) and Child right laws have been amended. Punishment for rape is no longer 5-year jail term, but life imprisonment. Whoever makes attempt to beg for the release of a rapist stands being charged for obstruction of justice.
“It is not right for teenagers to engage in sexual relationships. That is why parents must monitor their female children in school. But any school girl that gets impregnated, with the new law will be allowed to continue her study even with the pregnancy and after delivery, she will still be allowed to continue schooling. Our girls must go to school.”
The first lady stated that the GBV was not sentimental or female friendly, saying it stipulated punishments for all genders. She warned women against maltreating or battering their husbands, saying the GBV law would also punish any woman found infringing on the rights of man.
“Women should also desist from delivering babies at home or missions, always go to hospitals. You can observe that women are dying of breast cancer. Let us observe ourselves very well. Even our husbands have a lot of roles to play in this. They can help us massage the breast and detect the lumps. It had happened like this in the past, when men turned out to be our Messiahs,” said the first lady.
The repentant practitioners, represented by Mrs. Grace Ogunsina, Sade Akinola, Adeola Seriki and Margaret Arejo, assured the first lady that they would take the campaign to all the nooks and crannies of the state to redeem the image of the state.
They said Ekiti should be known for positive development and that no one should be happy with the ranking of Ekiti as second in the practice in Nigeria
In her contribution, Mrs. Sade Akinola said: “Ekiti is a highly educated environment and it must embrace modernity and shun those practices that can tarnish the image of the state and its people. Female genital cut is dangerous and injurious to health, can bring infectious diseases and cause crisis of monumental proportion to homes and we have to stop it”.
On her part, Mrs. Margaret Arejo, added that it now constitutes an offence for women to do genital cut for a female child and that the gospel must be spread to all towns and villages for strict adherence and compliance.
“It is a lie that any female child that is not circumcised will die or become flirtatious. They are mere superstitions. The rumour that their children will die in future during labour was a lie and mere conjecture.
“Whoever that is exploiting the people through FGM is wicked. How much can we make from that practice? The government has promised that whoever repents genuinely amongst us will be empowered even better than the economic gains we are getting from genital cutting, which has been causing diseases and damaging people’s sexual lives,” she stated.