The Law, Ancestral Practise And The Girl Child: Expert Wants FG To Seek An End To Female Genital Mutilation
An Expert has urged the Federal Government of Nigeria to find a lasting solution to Female Genital Mutilation which has contributed to the high case of ‘psychological trauma’ currently experienced among the girl child.
In an interview with VOA News Correspondent on possible causes of traumatic stress which most women endure, Dr. Q.T Ayinde, a Psychology Expert said that, ‘apart from sexual assault, accidental death or injury of loved ones, Female Genital Mutilation is another great reason why most women do experience traumatic stress.
He stressed further that women who were genitally mutilated often show signs of psychological trauma such as; anxiety, somatization, depression, post-traumatic stress and other mood disorders.
In Nigeria, apart from medical implications of FGM which most women who have walked often suffer, experience has shown that most families, especially in South Western part of the country do carry out FGM for religious reasons.
Narrating her ordeal to VOA News Correspondent, an American based Nigerian, Omowunmi Ogbeyemi, who is a native of Ado-Odo, a town in the coastal region of Ogun state, said that she is in a long battle with her husband’s family over their refusal to submit herself for Female Genital Mutilation. She said that trouble began when her husband took her first wife home to her parent in Ilutuntun, Okitipupa area of Ondo state and his family insisted that she pass through a ‘family rite’ before she can get married to their son. A development which led to the death of his first wife after refusing to be spiritually initiated to the family through some sort of Female Genital Mutilation.
During a chat with Wunmi’s husband, Mr. Oluwasoji Ogbeyemi, he said he has been on the run for over a couple of years ago after his first wife, Ajayi Temitope Opeyemi, whom he married sometimes 2012, ‘died in a mysterious circumstances’. Mr. Soji said he abandoned his mother, brothers, and other extended members of his family for fear of catching up on his new wife.
He said trouble started when he told his family about his marriage plans in May 2012. His uncle, Pa Chief Moses Omojola Ogbeyemi, who is currently acting as the head of Ogbeyemi family after the demise of Soji’s father in 1987, told him about a compulsory family rite that any woman married into the Ogbeyemi family must observe. Narrating further, he said a family deity ‘Oloja’ is to be appeased by any member of the family which the family Priest chooses to succeed the present appeaser of the deity within the family ranks.
When Mr. Soji quipped further about the rites, his uncle explained that ‘for any child born to the family of Ogbeyemi, such must be born clean at birth’. As an excited would be husband that had only courted with his spouse for just three months before their wedding plans began, he excitedly agreed to discuss the ritual process with his spouse, with a view of convincing her for the sake of their children, who are expected to ‘come clean’. That is, be ‘spiritually cleansed from birth’.
“After I convinced my wife on the need to consent to the rites according to the family’s beliefs, a day was set for the ‘family prayers’ as it was called. My spouse, Temitope had passed the night with me in our family compound in a bid to allow for smooth initiation of the prayer which was to take place by 5:00am the next day.
I accompanied my wife on the set date to the compound of Chief Abel Enikanoselu, who is the custodian of our family culture.
After welcoming us, had a brief discussion with my spouse and I, then later asked her to be ushered to a detached hut, set aside in his compound for the Oloja deity, with others from the family hierarchy waiting for the ritual process to commence.
Just a few minutes after my spouse went inside the isolated room, I heard her screaming my name and rushing towards me. In my bid to ask her what ensued, she fled the compound, leaving me with chief Enikanoselu to satisfy my inquisition. when I rushed to Chief Enikanoselu, he attacked me furiously, ‘what an effrontery?’. Did you not inform her? ‘You had better advised her to return for the ritual process or she might not live to tell the story peradventure you married her’, he threatened.
The ensued meleé almost tore the relationship apart as she explained that what she was asked to do was literarily, ‘female genital mutilation’.
Our case was that of trust, betrayal, and survival. Alas, she agreed to continue with our marriage plans on the condition that they stay far away from the family and that she will never, at any time take part in any ritual process of any kind.
We later proceeded to having a customary marriage in Lagos which was not in the knowledge of my family members.
As if that was the end, my wife later started having nightmares; seeing different unfamiliar images issuing threat statements to her from her sleep.
Their threats soon took a new turn when a delegation of my family, led by Ogbeyemi Adeolu, visited my house in Yaba area of Lagos state. They met my late wife and started a heated argument on her why she turned a deaf ear to the family’s warning and also going ahead to marry their son without proper initiations. The argument then resulted into them inflicting injuries on my wife after she confronted them. This sad trend, she reported at the Yaba Police station.
This we told our spiritual Counselor and we started praying about it until a sad incident occurred in February, 2013 when my wife was involved in a ghastly motor accident on her way to Ibadan on the 24th of January, 2015 and died in the process.
After few months of mourning my late wife, I moved on with a promise to never get married again nor return to my hometown. At this stage, I fled to Lagos to start a new life. This I did for three years before meeting my new wife, Omowunmi Esther Shakoto, who is a devoted Christian from Ado-Odo, a foremost Awori town bordering Lagos and Ogun state towards Badagry, the former slave route in Nigeria.
I explained what my experience was to Omowunmi, whom I later got married to in November, 2015 without the knowledge of my family. We later agreed to resume the travel plans together in order to stay away from my family.
After finding out that I had married a new wife, the news which I can’t explain how it got to their knowledge, they started issuing different threat statements through my mother; all bothering on losing our lives, while some of their threats came directly to me.
We eventually got our German VISA and travelled in February of 2016 after which we decided to not relent as we often fasted and prayed against any spiritual attack which my family may be planning again.
Their threats would soon become real after our first child of about 5 days old died in another mysterious circumstance after refusing to wake up from sleep/ News of his death was reported at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center, Newark, New Jersey, United States in April, 2016.
Few months after the demise of our child, my wife took in again even when we still continued receiving news of their threat statements. Despite repeated medical attention given to my wife since she took in, she eventually lost the pregnancy in late 2016.
At this stage, my wife and I had concluded plans to return to Ilutuntun, Okitipupa my hometown for the ritual process, but we were somewhat persuaded not to succumb to spiritual pressures emanating from my family”.
Mr. Soji’s wife, Omowunmi, confirmed to VOA News Correspondent that her spouse’s family is notorious for their threats which according to her, was becoming too much to bear. “I never believed the threat issued by my spouse’s family until my first child died ten days after I gave birth to him and I had another miscarriage eight months after the death of my first child. This is beyond what I can handle”.
When VOA News Correspondent contacted the Lisa of Ilutuntun, Chief Abel Enikanoselu to speak on series of allegations levelled against him and his family, he said he will ‘stop at nothing to uphold the cultural belief of his forebears’.
“I became the Appeaser of ‘Oloja’, the deity of our forefathers when I was 32 years. I have successfully upheld this belief for over 46 years and I will make sure it doesn’t terminate in my lifetime. I will do everything in my capacity to protect the cultural inheritance of my forebears”. He assured.
Speaking on the threat to life and the ‘mysterious demise of Soji’s wife, child, and pregnancy’, Chief Abel said, he doesn’t have answers to that as ‘Oloja deity serve justice to whom it is due to herself’.
Adding that a case like this has happened in the family about 25 years ago. “This has also happened to one of our sons in this family. His wife was recalcitrant; but when Oloja began to strike, a lot of good things were destroyed and until he brought his 3rd wife which he married while on the run for spiritual initiations, there was no peace of mind for him”.
While seeking further facts, Mr. Soji’s cousin, Oluwadare Ogbeyemi, who got married over 18 years ago, told our Correspondent that it is a norm in the family to initiate anyone who is willing to join the family through marriage. While adding that his wife, whom she married 18 years ago, passed through the stage. On the implication of not submitting oneself for the initiation, Mr. Dare said such woman would have terrible experience which could even lead to loss of life in the eventuality.
Another cousin, who spoke with our Correspondent on the condition of anonymity, assured that submitting oneself for the spiritual initiation would save a lot of damages. He reiterated that his only wife was made to pass through the same rite and they have raised three kids thereafter.
Meanwhile, report has it that one out of four Nigerian women between age 15 and 49 years has experienced Female Genital Mutilation, making the country number three in the world, behind Egypt and Ethiopia. World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that some 19 million women in Nigeria have undergone FGM. The states with the highest rate in FGM in Nigeria are; Osun with 76.6%, Ebonyi 74.2%, and Ondo state with just a little below Osun state in ranking.
The Federal Government of Nigeria, under former President Goodluck Jonathan in 2015, has enacted a law called “The Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) Act”, which seeks to eliminate female genital mutilation as well as other forms of gender-based violence. Despite the Federal Government’s policy against female genital mutilation, it simply follows that ‘culture and tradition have a greater impact on behavior than the law’.
In a response by a Public Health Practitioner in Abuja, Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory, Ikenna Nwakamma on the benefit of Female Genital Mutilation and published by (icwa.org), he said FGM do not benefit anyone. He added that FGM is usually done to control women’s sexual urges.
If the response of Ikenna Nwakamma is valid, then it literarily means that the Enikanoselu of Ilutuntun in Okitipupa which Soji Ogbeyemi belongs is likely practicing FGM to prevent their wives from promiscuity which they termed “come clean” as the case of children born into their families.
Dr. Ayinde, while calling the attention of the Federal Government of Nigeria to the law enacted during former President Goodluck Jonathan and termed, “The Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) Act”, said stiffer penalty should be met on anyone found culpable of the act in order to reduce the rate at which women in Nigeria are subjected to a long lasting torture through ‘Female Genital Mutilation’.