The National Orientation Agency (NOA) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on Thursday warned that those engaging in Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Imo risk 14 years imprisonment.
The two organisations said that Imo State was among the five states in Nigeria with high rates of FGM practice.
The NOA Director in Imo, Mr Vitus Ekeocha, gave the warning on Thursday at a sensitisation seminar organised by NOA in partnership with UNICEF in Nkwesi autonomous community in Oguta Local Government area.
Participants at the seminar included president generals, youth leaders and other stakeholders drawn from the 24 autonomous communities in the area.
Addressing them on the theme “Male Engagement to End Female Genital Mutilation”, Ekeocha said ignorance of the law prohibiting FGM would not exempt offenders.
He said that Imo State FGM Prohibition Law stipulated that while offenders risk 14 years imprisonment, those who aided the act would be subjected to seven years imprisonment.
Ekeocha stressed the need for zero tolerance for FGM, adding that those who were still in the practice could be arrested by security agencies without any warrant of arrest.
He said NOA and UNICEF decided to engage the male folks to join in the struggle to end FGM as they were critical stakeholders in the struggle.
“We want to increase the advocacy skill on the male group and also develop a plan of action for the elimination of FGM.
“We are partnering with the male group and also supporting them to establish a coalition advocacy for the elimination of FGM in Oguta LGA,” he said.
The UNICEF Consultant in Enugu Field Office, Mr Benjamin Mbakwem, said that FGM was responsible for most of the delayed labour during childbirth.
He said apart from delayed labour, another serious hazard associated with FGM was excessive bleeding during childbirth and possible infection.
Mbakwem said the disadvantages of FGM were too numerous, adding that this led to the consistent sensitisation against the practice.
“I have come to inform all of you not to allow your girl child to undergo any form of FGM because those who do that are deliberately destroying the future of that child.
“If you use hot water to mutilate the female genital organ, you have killed the cells and when you use sharp object to cut it off, you have also caused damage which will make the mutilated part unable to perform its duties,” he said.
Mbakwem said FGM practice could lead to passing virus like HIV to a female child and woman because the crude way it was done.
Dr Blessing Azubuike, a Representative of Ministry of Gender Affairs and Social Development from the state Ministry of Health, said that FGM was a direct abuse of the right of a girl child.
She called for total abolition of FGM, adding that the age-old practice had caused more harm than good to women.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that other other participants at the seminar included senior staff from the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Information.