The United Nations Population Fund says at least 1, 025, 000 Nigerian girls still face genital circumcision every year.
The UNFPA Country Representative, Ulla Mueller, said this on Saturday during a virtual meeting with the National Population Commission.
The meeting was held in commemoration of the 2020 World Population Day with the theme- ‘Putting the Brakes on Covid-19: How to Safeguard the Health and Rights of Women and Girls Now’.
Mueller while quoting the ‘World Population Report 2020’, said Nigeria still accounts for a quarter of the total number of female genital mutilation cases worldwide.
She, therefore, stated that there was a need for more action.
The UNPFA director said, “This year alone, an estimated 4.1 million girls will be subjected to female genital mutilation. Since that research estimates that Nigeria accounts for one-quarter of female genital mutilation globally, it means in Nigeria alone, 1, 025, 000 will undergo female genital mutilation.”
Mueller said that apart from female circumcision, many Nigerian underage girls were forced to marry much older men.
“Today, 33, 000 girls under the age of 18 will be forced into marriages usually to much older men. One in five females married today in Nigeria is underage. About 19 per cent of women between 15 and 19 have begun child bearing. About 14 per cent would have given birth and four per cent are pregnant with their first child,” she said.
Mueller also stated that many young Nigerian daughters were being marginalised in favour of sons, a situation which sees more boys attending school than girls.
She said marginalising the girl child was also a form of human rights abuse.
The UNPFA director said creating laws to stop such abuses was not the sole solution but enforcement of these laws.
Mueller stated that female genital mutilation could end in the next 10 years if countries could collectively invest about $3bn yearly.
“Ending child marriage and female genital mutilation is possible within 10 years by scaling up efforts to keep girls in school longer and teach them life skills and engage men and boys in social change dialogue.
“Investments totalling $3.5bn a year through to 2030 would end those two harmful practices and the suffering of an estimated 84 million girls according to the report,” Mueller said.
Also speaking, the acting Chairman of the National Population Commission, Dr. Tayo Oyetunji, said the Covid-19 pandemic and its concomitant effects on the economy had worsened the plight of women and girls and deepened poverty.
“The Covid-19 may have led to a higher proportion of malnourished women, girls and children. Covid-19 did not make it easy for women to access and utilise reproductive health facilities especially as the logistics of getting to health facilities were negatively impacted,” Oyetunji said.
He further stated that the lockdown occasioned by the pandemic undermined the delivery of contraceptives such as condoms.
Oyetunji stated that the contraceptive prevalence rate for modern methods is 12 per cent for married women while for sexually active unmarried women, only 28 per cent use the modern method.
The implication, he said, was that there would be a spike in sexually transmitted infections, unprotected sex, unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortions and maternal mortality.
He lamented that the pandemic had made it impossible for schools to resume which would in turn cause more early marriages, pregnancies and interrupted education.
Oyetunji added, “The lockdown due to the pandemic has also made it impossible for schools to resume. In the absence of schooling, more girls are likely to drop out of school and other consequences could include early marriage and high fertility, morbidity and maternal mortality, abortion, VVF and low self-esteem.”