As million of Nigerians celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ this Easter period, End Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting campaigners across the country and beyond have urged Christian leaders to speak up against the practice.
Data from the United Nations reveal that over 200 million girls and women currently live with diverse complications as a result of FGM. In Nigeria alone, over 20 million girls and women live with the side effects, some of which include loss of sex drive, infertility, increased rate of maternal and infant mortality, complications during delivery and even inability to control urination because of ruptured organs during cutting.
The activists say there is no religious basis for Female Genital Mutilation, with Pope Francis calling it a “degradation of women that needs to be combated”.
Leading Muslim leaders from across the world are also insisting that there is nothing in the Quran to support Female Genital Mutilation and that contrary to popular belief in many parts of the world, FGM is not a religious obligation.
“Nigerians are a very religious people and clerics have a responsibility to educate their congregation on the effects of Female Genital Mutilation,” Oti Wilberforce of the House of Kings and Priests, Ebonyi, said.
Maggie O’Kane, Executive Director of the Global Media Campaign to EndFGM, believes that working to get voices of religious leaders on the media to call for an end to FGM is the single most effective way to use the media to end FGM.
“They are the voices that people listen to and are very powerful,” O’Kane said. “FGM is not a religious obligation and clerics have the power to let the #FGMNotMyReligion message run faster.”
‘Sola Fagorusi of Onelife Initiative for Human development, a Nigerian non-profit that has worked extensively with broadcast and print journalists on the #MediaToEndFGM campaign, explains that the work with the media has to be consolidated by the clerics to ensure they protect women and girls through the pulpit and various ways through which they engage their congregants.
The #FGMNotMyReligion campaign is expected to reach over 100 million viewers and listeners across Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Kenya with radio talk shows, TV debates and campaigns planned for Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.