Female Genital Mutilation in NigerFemale genital mutilation is the act of “removing and sewing-up parts of the female genitalia.” Many are against the practice and Niger’s Minister of Women and Children Protection Bibata Barry says the act is “unacceptable in a civilized society.” It dehumanizes the women it affects and threatens the lives of mothers and daughters. Several facts help explain the issue of female genital mutilation in Niger.

5 Facts About Female Genital Mutilation in Niger

  1. Niger has laws against female genital mutilation. In 2003, the practice became illegal. Practitioners and assistants who violate this law face six months to 20 years of jail time. The law reduced the occurrence of the practice throughout the country. According to the president of the Nigerien Committee on Traditional Practices, the law has been effective so far. The steps Niger is taking are leading the country toward becoming the first West African country to eradicate female genital mutilation practices.
  2. Female genital mutilation rates are decreasing. In a United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs report, the prevalence of female genital mutilation in Niger greatly decreased between 1998 and 2006. In 1998, around 5.8% of women fell victim to the practice. Meanwhile, in 2006, the percentage dropped to only 2.2% of women. The decrease is largely due to the latest law.
  3. Disparities in education and wealth do not distinctly affect FGM rates in Niger. In a European Country of Origin Information Network (ECOI) poll, the percentage of women who undergo FGM procedures does not vary much among education levels. Female genital mutilation practices among women and girls in impoverished rural areas are about 1% more prevalent than in wealthier urban areas.
  4. The population largely believes FGM should be eradicated. In fact, 91% of males aged 15 to 49 believe that female genital mutilation in Niger should stop. Meanwhile, 3% think it should continue and 6% are unsure. Likewise, 82% of females aged 15 to 49 agree the practice should stop. Meanwhile, about 6% believe it should continue and 12% are not sure. This demonstrates the change in beliefs among the younger generations in Niger. These statistics show promise that the nation is moving toward a bright future in which FGM no longer exists.
  5. The United Nations aims to end FGM in Niger. UNICEF and Niger’s government sponsored a ceremony in which about 14,000 villagers from 20 communities vowed to end female genital mutilation and forced underage marriages. About 38% of girls in Niger marry before the age of 15. The United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution that urged countries to ban the practice. However, without fighting poverty in the communities where female mutilation is prevalent, there is a chance that it may reemerge. Through consistent education and aid programs through the U.N. and other NGOs, there is hope in eradicating the practice completely. Raising the education rate for women will also help eradicate the practice.

There is hope for ending female genital mutilation in Niger. Through the efforts of the community, NGOs and Niger’s government, the practice will continue decreasing. With changing beliefs and laws in place, the culturally entrenched tradition can be eliminated.

– Jake Herbetko
Photo: Flickr