Nigeria: Update to NGA200625 on prevalence of female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C), including ethnic groups in which FGM/C is prevalent; ability of parents to refuse FGM/C for their daughter; consequences for refusal; state protection and support services (2019–October 2021) [NGA200790.E]

Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada

1. Societal Attitudes and Prevalence of FGM/C

A December 2020 country information report on Nigeria by the Australian Department Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) states that "[a]lthough illegal and in decline, FGM/C continues to be practised in Nigeria" (Australia 3 Dec. 2020, para. 3.90). The DFAT report also notes that "[c]ultural and societal norms support the continuation of FGM/C in Nigeria" based on "notions of cleanliness or hygiene; prevention of promiscuity; enhancing fertility; marriage prospects and fidelity; fulfilled womanhood; and/or the idea that it protects babies during childbirth" (Australia 3 Dec. 2020, para. 3.92). In an interview with the Research Directorate, the Director of the Centre for Women's Studies and Intervention (CWSI) [1] stated that FGM/C is "not prevalent now" and "has been decreasing," but that it is difficult to change the culture (Director 13 June 2021). Similarly, in correspondence with the Research Directorate, a research analyst at an international NGO, "which conducts research to inform programs and policy across the world including Nigeria," stated that while parents are beginning to refuse FGM/C, it will take time and "sustained interventions" to "break social norms" (Research Analyst 9 July 2021).

According to the most recent Nigerian demographic and health survey, conducted from August to December 2018 by the National Population Commission (NPC) and ICF, the organization responsible for the international Demographic Health Surveys (DHS) Program [2] of the US Agency for International Development (USAID), among women who have heard of FGM/C, 78 percent "believe that female genital mutilation is not required by their religion" and 67 percent "believe that it should not be continued" (NPC of Nigeria and ICF Oct. 2019, 1, 465).

In correspondence with the Research Directorate, the Campaign Leader of the No-FGM Campaign, a campaign against FGM/C in Akwa Ibom State (The Guardian 6 Feb. 2021a), wrote that

[t]he practice of FGM is a hidden one. There is an express ban on the practice so persons who perpetrate this act do it discreetly. The level of prevalence is measured by how many victims get to speak up and because of this, there are not too many public accounts of FGM available. There are many victims but their unwillingness to speak up accounts for the unavailability of statistics. (No-FGM Campaign 23 May 2021)

According to the 2018 demographic and health survey, 20 percent of women ages 15 to 49 are "circumcised", compared to 25 percent reported in 2013; of women ages 15 to 49 who were circumcised, 86 percent were circumcised before the age of 5, and 5 percent were circumcised at age 15 or older (NPC of Nigeria and ICF Oct. 2019, 465).

The same source provides the following statistics on the percentage of women by age group who have experienced FGM/C:

Age (years) Percentage of women circumcised
15–19 13.7
20–24 15.9
25–29 18.0
30–34 19.7
35–39 21.9
40–44 26.7
45–49 31.0

(NPC of Nigeria and ICF Oct. 2019, 473)

The 2018 demographic and health survey indicates that 24.2 percent of urban women ages 15 to 49 have been circumcised, compared to 15.6 percent of rural women (NPC of Nigeria and ICF Oct. 2019, 473). In an article by Al Jazeera, a woman describes fleeing with her daughters from Nigeria to prevent them from undergoing FGM/C, stating that while her parents were from the city and did not believe in FGM/C, her in-laws were from a village where FGM/C was "prevalent" (Al Jazeera 17 June 2019). In an interview with the Research Directorate, a communications specialist based in Nigeria who works for an international humanitarian organization stated that "rural areas are more cohesive societies where there are a lot of cultural issues which are obeyed and respected" (Communications Specialist 12 Oct. 2021). A report from the Netherlands' Ministry of Foreign Affairs states that according to a confidential source, it is "common" in Ebonyi state for girls to be circumcised "in order to facilitate the search for a suitable husband" and that the practice is "sometimes" performed at the request of the family of the girl's future husband (Netherlands Mar. 2021, 84). The same source cites another confidential source in the city of Calabar as stating that for "some population groups" including the Efik and Ibibio, women must undergo FGM/C as a requirement for marriage (Netherlands Mar. 2021, 84). According to sources, FGM/C was previously thought to be an issue in southern Nigeria but now "hotspots" are being discovered in the north (Research Analyst 9 July 2021; Executive Director of Value Female Network 7 Oct. 2021). The Research Analyst further stated that the southern regions with higher prevalence of FGM/C are "heavily dominated by the Yorubas and Igbos" (Research Analyst 9 July 2021).

However, in an interview with the Research Directorate, a Program Officer at the Women's Consortium of Nigeria (WOCON) [3] stated that FGM/C is "very prevalent" in the southwest region of Nigeria and is "part of the culture" in Oyo state and Osun state, but it is "mostly" not common in the north and is not practice "at all" by the Fulani (Program Officer 1 July 2021). The Communications Specialist stated that FGM/C is "largely practiced" in the southeast and southwest and that there has not been "a national spread" of the practice of FGM/C (Communications Specialist 12 Oct. 2021). The director of CWSI stated "there are pockets where [FGM/C] is practiced" and that it can even vary from village to village within the same region (Director 13 June 2021).

The 2018 demographic and health survey provides the following statistics on prevalence of FGM/C by state or territory:

State Percentage of women ages 15–49 circumcised
Abia 12.2
Federal Capital Territory of Abuja (FCT-Abuja) 5.1
Adamawa 0.0
Akwa Ibom 10.2
Anambra 21.4
Bauchi 10.7
Bayelsa 6.7
Benue 5.3
Borno 2.4
Cross River 11.9
Delta 33.7
Ebonyi 53.2
Edo 35.5
Ekiti 57.9
Enugu 25.3
Gombe 0.1
Imo 61.7
Jigawa 34.1
Kaduna 48.8
Katsina 1.4
Kebbi 1.6
Kogi 1.0
Kwara 46.0
Lagos 23.7
Nasarawa 1.8
Niger 10.5
Ogun 8.2
Ondo 43.7
Osun 45.9
Oyo 31.1
Plateau 3.0
Rivers 9.3
Sokoto 5.4
Taraba 3.9
Yobe 14.2
Zamfara 5.3

(NPC of Nigeria and ICF Oct. 2019, 473–474)

The Research Analyst stated that "[FGM/C] is still considered to be more prevalent among the Yorubas and the Igbos but we are starting to see a substantial proportion among the Hausas as well" (Research Analyst 9 July 2021). The 2018 demographic and health survey provides the following statistics on the percentage of women by ethnic group who have experienced FGM/C:

Ethnic group Percentage of women ages 15–49 circumcised
Ekoi 11.6
Fulani 12.6
Hausa 19.7
Ibibio 9.3
Igala 0.9
Igbo 30.7
Ijaw/Izon 6.9
Kanuri/Beriberi 5.6
Tiv 0.8
Yoruba 34.7

(NPC of Nigeria and ICF Oct. 2019, 473)

The 2018 demographic and health survey provides the following statistics on the percentage of women by religion who have experienced FGM/C:

Religion Percentage of women ages 15–49 circumcised
Catholic 24.5
Other Christian 19.4
Islam 18.7
Traditionalist 11.9
Other 2.2

(NPC of Nigeria and ICF Oct. 2019, 473)

The 2018 demographic and health survey provides the following statistics on the percentage of women by level of education and of wealth who have experienced FGM/C:

Education Percentage of women ages 15–49 circumcised
No education 17.2
Primary 25.6
Secondary 19.4
More than secondary 19.5
Wealth quintile Percentage of women ages 15–49 circumcised
Lowest 16.4
Second 17.8
Middle 20.0
Fourth 22.6
Highest 20.0

(NPC of Nigeria and ICF Oct. 2019, 474)

The 2018 demographic and health survey provides the following statistics on the percentage of girls ages 0–14 who have experienced FGM/C, as reported by their mother, disaggregated by the mother's level of education and of wealth:

Mother's education Percentage of girls ages 0–14 circumcised
No education 24.4
Primary 16.7
Secondary 14.1
More than secondary 7.5
Wealth quintile Percentage of girls ages 0–14 circumcised
Lowest 26.6
Second 20.8
Middle 18.8
Fourth 16.4
Highest 9.8

(NPC of Nigeria and ICF Oct. 2019, 478)

2. Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Prevalence of FGM/C and Support Services

A February 2021 Reuters article reports that COVID-19 has led to an increase in reports of cases of FGM/C in Nigeria according to women's rights groups (Reuters 5 Feb. 2021). A September 2020 report by Orchid Project [4] on the impact of COVID-19 on FGM/C indicates that organizations in Abuja have reported an increase in cases of FGM/C in South-West Nigeria "as a result of school closures" (Orchid Project Sept. 2020, 7). The same source notes that "prevention and protection efforts are unavailable" due to COVID-19 social distancing measures and travel restrictions (Orchid Project Sept. 2020, 7). According to the Orchid Project report, civil society organizations in Nigeria have been operating and increasing hotline (see section 6 of this Response) initiatives with one organization in Enugu State reporting "over 2,000 calls" (Orchid Project Sept. 2020, 8). The same source reports that in Enugu State, organizations and members of the community have been providing "informal policing" because "formal policing is overburdened with COVID-19 and unable to provide protection to girls and women at risk" of FGM/C (Orchid Project Sept. 2020, 8). The Orchid Project report further indicates that "[s]ome" shelters in Nigeria have been closed due to COVID-19 "without provision of alternatives for women and girls at risk" of FGM/C and that where shelters are available, they are "seriously hampered" by limited funds and space (Orchid Project Sept. 2020, 8). Additional information on shelters available for girls and women at risk of FGM/C could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

3. Decision Regarding FGM/C

A February 2019 European Asylum Support Office (EASO) country information report on Nigeria states that the

final decision whether or not to circumcise their daughter is most often with the parents, but there is a considerable variation both individually and among different ethnic groups [as to] whether it is the father or the mother who makes this decision. The grandparents or the eldest female on the paternal side may also have a decisive role. (EU Feb. 2019, 63)

In correspondence with the Research Directorate, the Executive Director of the Society for the Improvement of Rural People (SIRP) [5] noted that "Nigeria has a patriarchal socio-cultural value system, in which males are preferred to females" and the practice of FGM/C involves an "unequal power relationship, in which the man takes all critical decisions in the family, including the decision as to whether a female child should be cut" (Executive Director of SIRP 6 June 2021). The No-FGM Campaign Leader noted that "[i]n the Nigerian society, the fathers have more authority in decision-making than the mothers. In extended families, the family heads have the highest authority and are usually male" (No-FGM Campaign 23 May 2021). The Dutch report states that "[s]everal confidential sources emphasised that mothers play a vital role in the decision in favour of FGM for their young daughters" (Netherlands Mar. 2021, 83). However, according to another confidential source in the Dutch report, fathers rather than mothers make the decision and "that if a father wanted his daughter to undergo FGM but the mother did not, the daughter would probably be circumcised anyway" (Netherlands Mar. 2021, 83). According to the Program Officer, "the extended family makes the decision, and the father gives consent" (Program Officer 1 July 2021). The Research Analyst noted that the decision on FGM/C is "predominantly" made by the fathers, although "most" men defer to the grandmothers or mothers to make the decision, resulting in the fathers being "influenced" when making their decision or the child undergoing the practice before the father is aware because he was not involved in "the care process" (Research Analyst 9 July 2021). In an interview with the Research Directorate, the Executive Director of Safehaven Development Initiative (SDI), a Nigerian NGO that provides support services to vulnerable women and girls through education on "issues of sexual and reproductive health, HIV/AIDS, malaria, human rights and gender-based violence" (The Girl Generation n.d.), stated that "most of the time" the paternal grandparents will "order [FGM/C] to be done" and the "grandmother always has the upper hand" and the mother "does not have the right to question her" (SDI 18 Oct. 2021).

According to the Research Analyst, "[i]t also depends on the family structure and the relationships that exists" (Research Analyst 9 July 2021). The same source further stated that if the family is detached from their extended family, then only the mother and father make the decision, while also noting the power dynamic between the mother and the father are an important factor with Nigeria being "a very patriarchal society where even decisions pertaining to health and wellbeing are made solely by the male partner" (Research Analyst 9 July 2021). According to a confidential source cited in the Dutch report, in southeastern Nigeria, the decision on FGM/C was made by the extended family or wider community in "about" one in fifteen cases since the parents had "in practice lost control over their children" by being unable to care for their children financially or otherwise (Netherlands Mar. 2021, 83-84). In an interview with the Research Directorate, the Executive Director of Value Female Network, a Nigerian NGO working to end the practice of FGM/C in Osun state (The New Humanitarian 25 Sept. 2017), noted that the decision goes beyond the family and involves the "community and society"; it would be challenging for parents to refuse as they would be seen as "not complying with the community" (Executive Director of Value Female Network 7 Oct. 2021). However, the same source added that "it varies from community to community" (Executive Director of Value Female Network 7 Oct. 2021).

The No-FGM Campaign Leader, speaking about Akwa Ibom State in southern Nigeria, noted that

[p]arents have the power to make decisions concerning the circumcision of their daughter when they live in cities or semi-urban areas. However, this is not so when they live in close-kni[t] communities in rural areas when FGM is a recognized and mandatory cultural practice in such an area. (No-FGM Campaign 23 May 2021)

The Research Analyst stated that for families that have close relationships with extended family members, "grandmothers influence decisions to cut" and that they are present and "largely make decisions on care" in the weeks after the child's birth (Research Analyst 9 July 2021). The same source noted that "older [family members] such as grandmothers are keepers of these practice and ensure that new girls in the family are cut"; even if the mother does not want her daughter to undergo FGM/C, she is "almost helpless" to refuse and FGM/C "will most likely" be performed if older family members "support the practice" (Research Analyst 9 July 2021). The Executive Director of SDI noted that the grandmother will travel to the girl's home to ensure FGM/C is performed (SDI 18 Oct. 2021). According to the Executive Director of Value Female Network,

grandparents will do everything to make sure their granddaughter is cut. They do not want traditions to end. They will travel from a very far community, pay for accommodation, pay for everything. They will go the extra mile. They will ensure the girl is cut. They will keep it in their mind for years and wait until they can do it. (Executive Director of Value Female Network 7 Oct. 2021)

According to the Program Officer, if a mother refuses FGM/C for her daughter, the child can be taken by force by the woman's family (Program Officer 1 July 2021). However, the EASO report states that a "few cases of relatives disregarding the parents' decision and subjecting the girl to FGM/C [have been] reported, although this is considered to be very unusual" (EU Feb. 2019, 63). According to the Communications Specialist, if the family lives in the city there are "isolated cases" where the grandmother "might" come and say the child must undergo FGM/C, but they do not believe this practice is widespread (Communications Specialist 12 Oct. 2021). The same source noted that if they live in a community where FGM/C is widely practiced it is "more likely" for the grandparents to pressure the family to have the child undergo FGM/C (Communications Specialist 12 Oct. 2021). The DFAT report states that "[t]here are no reports that FGM/C has occurred without the consent of parents" (Australia 3 Dec. 2020, para. 3.93).

4. Consequences of Refusing FGM/C
4.1 For the Parents

The EASO report notes that relatives "may" pressure parents with "threats to withhold support due to their 'wrong' decisions"; however, FGM/C is "considered a 'family issue' and parents are usually not subjected to violence or threats of violence" (EU Feb. 2019, 63). The Communications Specialist stated that it is "[m]ore of a social pressure" and that parents can refuse (Communications Specialist 12 Oct. 2021).

The SIRP Executive Director noted that parents of girls who do not undergo FGM/C "are ostracized and denied social recognition" in their extended family and the community (Executive Director of SIRP 6 June 2021). The same source noted that this applies across Nigeria but is "more pronounced among the Igbos and Yorubas of the South East and South West Regions of Nigeria" (Executive Director of SIRP 6 June 2021). The Executive Director of SDI stated that the mother of a girl who does not undergo FGM/C will be "looked down upon" by her friends and the mother will "not have a voice in the community" (SDI 18 Oct. 2021). According to the Executive Director of Value Female Network, the community "make[s] it difficult" for parents to refuse (Executive Director of Value Female Network 7 Oct. 2021). The same source added that parents who are able to refuse are "well off" (Executive Director of Value Female Network 7 Oct. 2021). The Research Analyst stated that the reasons behind FGM/C vary between communities, which means that "sanctions for refusal" vary as well and can "range from being ostracised from the community/community groups/age groups to discord in the family" (Research Analyst 9 July 2021).

4.2 For the Girl

According to the Research Analyst, "there are consequences and sanctions for not cutting/getting cut that vary from community to community" (Research Analyst 9 July 2021). The DFAT report indicates that "[g]irls may be ostracised, shunned or assaulted by their family or community if they have not undergone FGM/C" (Australia 3 Dec. 2020, para. 3.92). The Dutch report cites confidential sources as indicating that girls who do not undergo FGM/C "run the risk of experiencing bullying and social exclusion" (Netherlands Mar. 2021, 86). Another confidential source in the same report noted that the associated stigma results in "some teenage girls" in southern Nigeria insisting on circumcision (Netherlands Mar. 2021, 86). When asked by the Research Directorate about the consequence for refusal of FGM/C, the Director noted that a girl "might" face stigma, but she would not face "persecution or harassment" and she would still be able to attend church and school (Director 13 June 2021). According to the Executive Director of Value Female Network, girls who are not circumcised are viewed "differently" and they are seen "as not being clean," and "as girls without a future" (Executive Director of Value Female Network 7 Oct. 2021).

According to sources, not undergoing FGM/C affects a woman's ability to get married (Netherlands Mar. 2021, 86; Director 13 June 2021; Program Officer 1 July 2021). The EASO report indicates that there are "concerns that men refuse to marry women who have not been circumcised" (EU Feb. 2019, 63). The No-FGM Campaign leader wrote that in areas in Akwa Ibom State where FGM/C is practiced, girls who have not undergone FGM/C are "perceived as 'not-women-enough', unmarriageable, outcasts and rebels" (No-FGM Campaign 23 May 2021). The SIRP Executive Director stated that girls who do not undergo FGM/C "are perceived as unclean and [are] therefore stigmatized" and are not perceived as "proper and fit" for marriage (Executive Director of SIRP 6 June 2021).

The Dutch report notes that according to confidential sources, "adult women who absolutely do not want to be circumcised cannot be forced to be circumcised" (Netherlands March 2021, 85). However, the Executive Director of Value Female Network stated if a woman avoided FGM/C throughout her childhood, they may still undergo FGM/C during childbirth (Executive Director of Value Female Network 7 Oct. 2021). An article published in African Health Sciences, an "internationally refereed journal publishing original articles" related to health and science in Africa and the tropics (African Health Sciences n.d.), on FGM/C in rural Nigeria by Amelia Ngozi Odo et al. notes that someone who does not undergo FGM/C might be "excommunicated or mocked by community members," denied attendance at cultural ceremonies and activities, and be subject to "maltreat[ment]" by her husband and her extended family until she undergoes circumcision as an adult (Odo, et al. Dec. 2020, 1973). According to a report on human trafficking in Nigeria from the EASO, sources report that "traffickers prey on girls/women who try to escape FGM and end up by themselves in large urban centres" (EU Apr. 2021, 19).

5. State Protection

The DFAT report states that "[t]he capacity of the government to provide effective protection is limited in some parts of the country, in particular in Borno, Adamawa, Yobe, Plateau, Benue, Nasarawa, Taraba and Zamfara states" (Australia 3 Dec. 2020, para. 3.93).

A December 2019 WHO press release reports that the Division Head of the Gender, Adolescent/School Health and Elderly Care (GASHE) unit of Nigeria's Federal Ministry of Health stated that "'[t]he revised National Policy on the elimination of FGM (2020 – 2024) has mapped out roles for health workers, health regulatory bodies, professional health associations and other stakeholders to prevent FGM in Nigeria'" (UN 11 Dec. 2019). The same source notes that, according to the Division Head of GASHE, policies to prevent FGM/C include "sensitization and awareness creation," "capacity building of health care workers," and the establishment of surveillance systems to detect the practice of FGM/C among medical professionals (UN 11 Dec. 2019).

Further information on the revised National Policy on the elimination of FGM (2020 – 2024) could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

5.1 Legislation

Article 6 of the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act, 2015 (VAPP Act) provides the following regarding FGM/C:

  1. The circumcision or genital mutilation of the girl child or woman is hereby prohibited.
  2. A person who performs female circumcision or genital mutilation or engages another to carry out such circumcision or mutilation commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a term of imprisonment not exceeding 4 years or to a fine not exceeding N200,000.00 [Nigerian Naira (NGN)] [approximately C$585] or both.
  3. A person who attempts to commit the offence provided for in subsection (2) of this section commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a term of imprisonment not exceeding 2 years or to a fine not exceeding N100,000.00 or both.
  4. A person who incites, aids, abets, or counsels another person to commit the offence provided for in subsection (2) of this section commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a term of imprisonment not exceeding 2 years or to a fine not exceeding N100,000.00 or both. (Nigeria 2015)

5.2 Application and Enforcement of the FGM Ban Under the VAPP Act

A June 2018 report by 28 Too Many [6] notes that laws passed by the federal government must also be adopted and implemented by state governments (28 Too Many June 2018, 2). The same source states that the VAPP Act is a federal law and, as such, is "only effective" in the FCT-Abuja; the other states "must pass mirroring legislation to prohibit FGM across the country" (28 Too Many June 2018, 3). The EASO report indicates that 13 states have adopted "similar laws" (EU Feb. 2019, 62). The DFAT report similarly notes that 13 states had implemented the VAPP Act as of December 2020 (Australia 3 Dec. 2020, para. 3.91). The SIRP Executive Director indicated that 4 of 36 states in Nigeria have adopted the VAPP Act "for implementation" (Executive Director of SIRP 6 June 2021). A VAPP Tracker maintained by the Rule of Law and Empowerment Initiative (also known as Partners West Africa Nigeria, PWAN) [7] indicates that 23 states in Nigeria have passed the VAPP Act (PWAN [Apr. 2021]). According to the Research Analyst, as of July 2021 26 out of 37 states have adopted the VAPP Act (Research Analyst 9 July 2021). The 28 Too Many report indicates that "some" states have established their own penalties for FGM/C (28 Too Many June 2018, 5).

The December 2019 WHO press release notes that implementation of legislation prohibiting FGM/C "remains low across the states in Nigeria" (UN 11 Dec. 2019). A February 2020 article by the Guardian, a Nigerian newspaper, reports that despite the adoption of the VAPP Act, "there is a still a high record of FGM practice" (The Guardian 6 Feb. 2020). The EASO report notes that although there is federal legislation banning FGM/C and related legislation in "several" Nigerian states, "no legal action to curb the practice" has been reported (EU Feb. 2019, 62). Sources indicate that, in relation to FGM/C, there have been no convictions (No-FGM Campaign 23 May 2021; Executive Director of SIRP 6 June 2021; Research Analyst 9 July 2021) or no prosecutions (28 Too Many June 2018, 5; Australia 3 Dec. 2020, para. 3.93; Program Officer 1 July 2021). A May 2021 article by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), established by the Government of Nigeria (Devex n.d.), reports that at a workshop on ending FGM/C in Oyo State, a lecturer in the Department of Sociology at the University of Ibadan stated that there is "inadequate enforcement of laws against FGM" and that in the 13 states that have adopted a law against FGM/C, lack of implementation is a "major issue" (NAN 18 May 2021). According to the Program Officer, the laws are not being implemented because people, including police officers, doctors and parents, are not aware of them, and FGM/C are continuing to be performed in hospitals (Program Officer 1 July 2021).

The DFAT report indicates that because family members "are often the perpetrators, reporting rates for FGM/C are low" (Australia 3 Dec. 2020, para. 3.93). The No-FGM Campaign Leader stated that victims of FGM/C "hesitate to report" (No-FGM Campaign 23 May 2021). The 28 Too Many report notes that there is "reluctance" from families to report FGM/C and "risk going to court" (28 Too Many June 2018, 6). The Research Analyst noted that "[Sexual and Gender Based Violence] (SGBV) cases have not been handled well by the police" and that, "[m]ost times, they try to 'settle' the cases with the family which will mean that survivors most times end up with the perpetrators" (Research Analyst 9 July 2021).

A February 2021 article by the Guardian reports that according to an FGM/C survivor and activist, "'many people'" do not know that the law prohibiting FGM/C exists (The Guardian 6 Feb. 2021b). The Director noted that "[j]ust the elites know about these laws" (Director 13 June 2021). The 28 Too Many report states that "[t]he details of anti-FGM legislation are not yet widely known" and " many, including local police," do not understand them (28 Too Many June 2018, 6). The same source reports that, according to civil society, there is "a need for local police and judiciary to be sensitised around the anti-FGM legislation" (28 Too Many June 2018, 6). However, the 28 Too Many report indicates that law enforcement officials, including the police, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), and Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) have received training in Osun (28 Too Many June 2018, 6).

The No-FGM Campaign Leader indicated that a woman who refuses FGM/C can go to the police for protection and that "[t]he law backs her" (No-FGM Campaign 23 May 2021). The SIRP Executive Director noted that according to the VAPP Act, a woman who refuses to undergo FGM/C can go to the police for protection; however, in practice "the police hardly ever take the issue very serious[ly]" (Executive Director of SIRP 6 June 2021). According to the Director, women can go to the police, but the police "will not do anything"; it is also expensive to go to the police and the courts (Director 13 June 2021). The No-FGM Campaign Leader indicated that in cases of extended family conflict because of the refusal of FGM/C, parents can report to the police (No-FGM Campaign 23 May 2021). However, this only applies in states which have adopted the VAPP Act or have laws prohibiting FGM; "[w]here there are none, there might be no protection" (No-FGM Campaign 23 May 2021). The SIRP Executive Director stated that the VAPP Act has a complaint redress mechanism that allows victims, survivors, and parents to "seek redress from law enforcement agencies, particularly the police"; however, there are "no institutional protections, motivations and incentives for parents to undertake this process" (Executive Director of SIRP 6 June 2021). According to the Program Officer, woman do not want to report cases of FGM/C because the police will send them home after "mock[ing] and demoniz[ing] them" and saying that "it is a family matter" (Program Officer 1 July 2021).

6. Examples of Support Services

According to confidential sources in the Dutch report, while refusal of FGM "is possible," it can lead to rejection and there is "a lack of financial and other forms of support and shelter options in such cases" (Netherlands Mar. 2021, 85). The same source further notes that

it is often difficult for women to survive in cities because there are few places they can turn to for different types of help such as legal assistance, psychosocial assistance, economic assistance and emergency or longer-term accommodation. Given the lack of support for women attempting to flee FGM, according to several confidential sources, the probability of an escape attempt succeeding depends on the extent to which a girl/woman was financially independent when she left, and whether she has the necessary skills to provide for her own income once she is in the city. (Netherlands Mar. 2021, 86-87)

Sources indicate that Nigerian civil society organizations advocating for ending FGM/C include the following:

  • Value Female Network through their Project Abandon Female Genital Mutilation (UN n.d.);
  • Women Against Violence and Exploitation (WAVE) Foundation (WAVE Foundation n.d.);
  • HACEY Health Initiative through their StopCut Project in the states of Ekiti, Osun and Oyo (HACEY n.d.);
  • No-FGM Campaign in Akwa Ibom State (The Guardian 6 Feb. 2021a);
  • SIRP in Enugu State (Orchid Project Sept. 2020, 9).

According to Orchid Project, SIRP also manages a "hotline reporting on [FGM/C] for girls at risk" in Enugu State (Orchid Project Sept. 2020, 9). Information on the services offered through the hotline could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

According to its website, WAVE Foundation, a non-profit organization based in Abuja with branches in Osogbo, Kano, Minna and Lagos, offers the following services regarding FGM/C:

Restorative surgery

Counseling,

Prevention & support for at risk girls and survivors

Medications

Advocacy

Pro-bono legal services

Community centre. (WAVE Foundation n.d.)

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

Notes

[1] The Centre for Women's Studies and Intervention (CWSI) is a Nigeria-based, religious organization focused on women's empowerment (CWSI n.d.).

[2] The Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) program is "a USAID-funded project providing support and technical assistance in the implementation of population and health surveys in countries worldwide" (NPC of Nigeria and ICF Oct. 2019, ii).

[3] The Women's Consortium of Nigeria (WOCON) is an NGO with headquarters in Lagos dedicated to improving women and children's rights with a particular focus on issues related to gender-based violence (GBV) (WOCON n.d.).

[4] Orchid Project is a UK-based NGO that works with organizations around the world to end the practice of FGM/C (Orchid Project n.d.).

[5] The Society for the Improvement of Rural People (SIRP) is an NGO based in Enugu, Nigeria that is "committed to working with rural people towards poverty alleviation and their overall empowerment" through advocacy, training, research, and projects (SIRP n.d.).

[6] 28 Too Many is a UK-based organization that conducts research on FGM/C and "provide[s] knowledge and tools to those working to end FGM" in Africa and worldwide (28 Too Many n.d.).

[7] The Rule of Law and Empowerment Initiative, also known as Partners West Africa Nigeria (PWAN), is a Nigerian NGO "dedicated to enhancing citizens' participation and improving security governance in Nigeria and West Africa" (PWAN n.d.).

References

28 Too Many. June 2018. Nigeria: The Law and FGM. [Accessed 9 Apr. 2021]

28 Too Many. N.d. "About." [Accessed 26 May 2021]

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Al Jazeera. 17 June 2019. "The Nigerian Refugee Who Saved Her Daughters from FGM." [Accessed 13 Oct. 2021]

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Centre for Women's Studies and Intervention (CWSI). N.d. "Who We Are: Centre for Women Studies & Intervention." [Accessed 14 Oct. 2021]

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Director, Centre for Women Studies and Intervention (CWSI). 13 June 2021. Interview with the Research Directorate.

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Odo, Amelia Ngozi et al. December 2020. "Towards Characterization of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Rural Nigeria." African Health Sciences. Vol. 20, No. 4. [Accessed 7 Oct. 2021]

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United Nations (UN). 11 December 2019. World Health Organization (WHO). "WHO and Partners Harmonize Government Efforts to Stop Medicalization of Female Genital Mutilation." [Accessed 20 May 2021]

United Nations (UN). N.d. Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Action Awards. "Project Abandon Female Genital Mutilation." [Accessed 2 June 2021]

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Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources: 28 Too Many; Africa Youth and Adolescents Network on Population and Development Nigeria; Committee for the Defence of Human Rights Nigeria; Community Health and Research Initiative; Education as a Vaccine; Girls' Power Initiative; HACEY Health Initiative; Nigeria – Federal Ministry of Health; Orchid Project; Research to Help Women Thrive, Nigeria Country Office; professor of medical anthropology at a university in Kansas who studies and gender and sexuality in Nigeria; professor of sociology at a Nigerian university who studies development and social issues in Nigeria; UN – EndCuttingGirls Campaign Nigeria, UN Population Fund Nigeria, WHO Nigeria Country Office; Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre; Women's Aid Collective; Women's Health and Action Research Centre; Women's Information Network; Women's Rights and Health Project.

Internet sites, including: ActionAid; African Women's Organization; Amnesty International; Asylum Research Centre; The Atlantic; Austria – Federal Office for Immigration and Asylum; BBC; Bertelsmann Stiftung; CARE International; Daily Independent; Daily Trust; Desert Flower Foundation; ecoi.net; Education as a Vaccine; End FGM European Network; Equality Now; Factiva; Foundation for Women's Health Research and Development; France – Office français de protection des réfugiés et apatrides; Gender & COVID-19; Germany – Federal Office for Migration and Refugees; The Girl Generation; Global Health Council; The Guardian (UK); Hope Foundation for African Women; Human Rights Watch; InfoMigrants; International Center for Research on Women; Ireland – Refugee Documentation Centre; Leadership; The New York Times; Nigeria – Federal Ministry of Health, Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development; Nigeria Health Watch; Norway – Landinfo; Obstetrics and Gynecology Research; Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development; Plan International; PLOS ONE; Public Health Nursing; Research to Help Girls and Women Thrive; The Premium Times; The Punch; Save the Children; Switzerland – State Secretariat for Migration; The Telegraph; This Day; UK – Home Office; UN – Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Refworld, UN Population Fund, UN Security Council, UN Women; University of Nairobi – Africa Coordinating Centre for the Abandonment of FGM/C; US – CIA, Department of State; Vanguard; The Washington Post; Women's Consortium of Nigeria; World Bank.