HACEY Health Initiative in partnership with the Osun State Ministry of Health held a virtual meeting with the stakeholders who concluded that the Female Gender Mutilation laws should be amended in order to encourage whistleblowing.
The meeting which was held on Tuesday, July 21 was attended by 30 stakeholders who represented ministries, agencies, CSOs and the media. The meeting was held in order to discuss existing plans and systems in reducing Female Genital Mutilation/Cut (FMG/C) in the state.
The project is aimed at reducing the prevalence of female genital mutilation/cutting in Nigeria by improving the enforcement of protective laws and increasing public knowledge and positive behavioural change among communities and stakeholders. The project is funded by The UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women (UN Trust Fund) and is being implemented over the next 3 years in Oyo, Osun and Ekiti states, which have the highest prevalence of FGM in Southwest Nigeria.
The UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women is the only global grant-making mechanism dedicated exclusively to addressing all forms of violence against women and girls at local and national levels. To date, the UN Trust Fund has supported 572 organizations in 140 countries and territories.
The Executive Director of HACEY Health Initiative, Rhoda Robinson made a presentation in which she explained the objectives of the project. She said, “The project aims to reduce the prevalence of FGM/C by improving law enforcement systems and enhancing public knowledge and awareness via strengthened collaborative efforts championed by critical stakeholders.”
According to the FGM/C coordinator for Osun State, Mrs Toyin Adelowokan, the prevalent rate of FGM/C in Osun State has reduced from 98.9% in 1998 to 45.9% in 2018 due to collaborative efforts in ending FGM/C by Osun State government, international organizations, CSOs, and other stakeholders. She, however, lamented even though FMG/C is still being practised in the state, no one has been caught and punished for the act.
She added that tradition, religion and myths/misconceptions were one of the major contributory factors to Female genital mutilation in the state.
Barrister Titiloye Kayode, a representative of the Ministry of Justice who made a presentation regarding the implementation of VAPP Act, existing policies and reported cases of FGM/C in Osun State. He stressed that eradicating FGM/C in Osun state is of high priority to the Ministry of Justice as it is awaiting an FGM/C case to be reported for the law to take actions.
He also posited that there is a need to amend and review Osun State FGM/C law of 2004 to make it more effective, encompassing and compelling to encourage reporting from health workers and whistleblowers.
During the question and answer session, a reporter with Guardian Newspaper,Timothy Agbor, asked if there were provisions for alternative means of income for cutters. In response to Agbor’s question, Mrs Toyin Adamolekun said, “local cutters are being empowered such that they can have other means of income but of recent, health workers are more involved in the act of mutilation than the local cutters.”
Samuel Olayemi also asked if there are structures in the state to break the culture of silence on FGM/C. Mrs Toyin Adelowokan responded that toll-free lines are available for people to call and report FGM/C cases. She added that the numbers are shared on social media platforms.
The Director of Public Health- Dr Gbenga Adepoju, recommended that whistle-blowing should be encouraged in the state and health workers should be mandated to report any FGM/C case, so as to break the culture of silence on FGM/C. This recommendation was supported by the Honourable Commissioner for Health who said that the state will consider rewarding whistle-blowers of those who carry out FGM/C.
In response to Dr. Adepoju’s recommendation, Barrister Titiloye Kayode explained the process involved in the amendment of laws and assured stakeholders that with peer-review, consultation and effective collaboration, the Osun state FGM/C law of 2004 will be amended.
In the course of the meeting, participants were divided into breakout rooms to obtain their commitment statement on FGM/C reduction in Osun State.
Dr. Fasanu, in his commitment statement, said women utilizing MNCH services will be educated on FGM/C, its legal and future implications. He added that other gynaecologists will also be encouraged to educate women who visit the health center on FGM/C.
Timothy Agbor pledged that articles that the curb of FGM/C will be written to educate the public. He also said reports from stakeholders’ meetings will be written and published.
Adisa Aderonke, a representative from Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) explained that the body will be committed to the eradication of FGM/C through three approaches which he named as education, counselling and law enforcement.
The meeting had in attendance some stakeholders such as Honourable Commissioner for Health, Hon. Rafiu Isamotu; Director of Public Health, Dr Gbenga Adepoju; other representatives from Ministries of Health, Women Affairs, and Justice; representatives from International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA); Nigeria Association of Women Journalist (NAWOJ); National Human Right Commission (NHRC); Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corp (NSCDC); Nigeria Medical Association (NMA); National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives (NANNM); Civil Society Organizations and the media.