This document discusses the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) in Nigeria and is an update of a COI Focus of 12 October 2015. Four countries account for two thirds of cut women worldwide: Egypt, Ethiopia, Sudan and Nigeria, which has the largest population in Africa (178.5 million inhabitants in 2014). With 20 million cut women, Nigeria is also the country with the largest number of women who underwent FGM.
The previous version of this research was based on figures from the 2013 Demographic and Health Survey (DHS 2013). For this update, Cedoca uses figures from the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey 2016-17, (MICS 2017), which were published in February 2018.
According to the MICS 2017, 18.4 % of women aged between 15 and 49 in Nigeria underwent FGM. This figure rises to 25.3 % for girls between 0 and 14 years.
Among these women and girls, the most frequent forms of FGM involve the removal of flesh, often at a very early age. Recutting and reinfibulation are very rarely practiced.
FGM is mainly practiced in the south of the country, especially in Osun, Ebonyi, Ekiti, Imo, Oyo and Kwara States.
The higher a family’s wealth index quintile, the more FGM tends to be practiced on women at a later age. Conversely, 43 % of girls in the poorest wealth index quintile have been subjected to cutting versus 14,4 % in the highest wealth index quintile.
Parents believe FGM prevents sexual promiscuity and infidelity, increases fertility and marriage opportunities, facilitates birth, prevents neonatal mortality, and conforms to cultural standards regarding the ‘appearance’ of female genitalia. They may also have a strong desire to maintain customs and traditions transmitted by their ancestors or to conform to prevalent social norms.
The decision to practice FGM is taken by the parents of the girl, the father having the last word, even though he is kept away from the cutting procedure and the scarring process. Sometimes, the father leaves the decision with the mother, on the basis of the assumption that she knows more about the subject. A survey conducted by the Population Council has shown that grandmothers may also play an influential role in the decision.
Cutting is often practiced by traditional ‘circumcisers’, more rarely by health professionals.
Nigeria scores very low on gender equality scales developed by international bodies. This implies that discrimination against women is widespread.
The issue of female circumcision belongs to the private sphere and information on a woman’s status regarding female circumcision is not necessarily shared with other persons. The sources consulted by Cedoca do not mention major physical or social repercussions for parents who do not want their daughter to be circumcised.
Nigeria has ratified a number of international treaties condemning FGM as a form of violence against women. Campaigns to curb the practice of FGM are launched or supported by the government through several of its ministries. The Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act (VAPP Act) of May 2015 bans FGM, among other practices. For the time being, this Act only applies in the Federal Capital Territory and has to be approved by the legislative assembly of a federal state in order to come into force in that state.
Twelve federal States have however adopted specific laws banning FGM.
The Nigeria Police Force (NPF) is the main law enforcement agency in Nigeria. Nigeria also has a two-tiered judiciary but in the Federal Capital Territory, only the Supreme Court is competent to hear and decide cases under the VAPP Act.
According to the sources consulted by Cedoca, no one involved in FGM has ever been sentenced by a court. Difficulties arise in relation to women’s access to justice, especially in rural areas. Cultural practices are also an obstacle to legal redress.
The main actors promoting awareness against FGM are the State (several highly placed officials have openly taken a stance against this practice) and NGOs. However, the Population Council found that awareness campaigns and actions have minimal results.
Some hospitals have qualified personnel to treat the medical consequences of FGM. The Population Council is currently conducting research into this issue but does not as yet have detailed information it can share. For cultural reasons, psychological care is less of an option.
The policy implemented by the Commissioner General is based on a thorough analysis of accurate and up-to-date information on the general situation in the country of origin. This information is collated in a professional manner from various, objective sources, including the EASO, the UNHCR, relevant international human rights organisations, non-governmental organisations, professional literature and coverage in the media. When determining policy, the Commissioner General does not only examine the COI Focuses written by Cedoca and published on this website, as these deal with just one aspect of the general situation in the country of origin. The fact that a COI Focus could be out-of-date does not mean that the policy that is being implemented by the Commissioner General is no longer up-to-date.
When assessing an application for asylum, the Commissioner General not only considers the actual situation in the country of origin at the moment of decision-making, he also takes into account the individual situation and personal circumstances of the applicant for international protection. Every asylum application is examined individually. An applicant must comprehensively demonstrate that he has a well-founded fear of persecution or that there is a clear personal risk of serious harm. He cannot, therefore, simply refer back to the general conditions in his country, but must also present concrete, credible and personal facts.
There is no policy paper for this country available on the website.