Improved guidelines, trainings and policies to ensure health professionals can provide counseling to young girls and women has been highlighted as a major solution to the challenge of female genital mutilation in Nigeria.
This concerned was expressed by the Commissioner for Health Lagos State, Dr. Jide Idris during a review of the family health programmes of the State.
He disclosed that female genital mutilation is a socio-cultural practice that is hazardous and mostly done by traditional circumcisers.
He pointed out that the act is usually very harmful to the health of women since it can lead to urinary tract problems, tetanus infection, severe bleeding, cysts, genital swelling, complications during child births and increased risk of neonatal death.
According to the Commissioner, “Female genital mutilation or intentional alteration of the genital for non-medical reasons does not have any health benefit as wrongly believed by the proponents, it does not reduce libido in women nor contribute to chastity as erroneously claimed.
He noted that, on the other hand, female genital mutilation can have long term consequences such as pain in intercourse, decreased sexual satisfaction, problem with menstruation as well as the need for later surgeries.
Idris also addressed the assumption that the procedure is safer when done by health or medical personnel demanding that no health workers should support such gross infringement on the well-being of women. While advising health workers to desist from performing female genital mutilation, he also expressed concern about psychological problems such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder that accompany such procedures.
According to the Commissioner, female genital mutilation is an unnecessary pain inflicted on women by people they know and respect, usually family members and leaders of the community, hence, it can be a precursor of mental and psychological problems for the affected women.
Idris noted that those at risks are the vulnerable segment of female population who are either minors and/or usually financially dependent, citing this act as gross violations of the rights of the person’s health, security and physical wellbeing.
Speaking on the panacea for this situation, Idris pointed out that in addition to government policy, there is need for the development of a robust advocacy to educate, enlighten community and religious leaders on the harms of the practice and engage them on the need to abandon it.
He further added: “There is also the need for training and orientation of health and social workers to manage and counsel victims of this barbaric act; this will help in no more small measure to alleviate their sufferings and reduce the burden of psychological trauma being experienced.”
Idris stated that the Ministry has an adolescent/youth sexual reproductive health unit to cater for the youths of Lagos state especially with regards to Counseling, Reproductive health clinic, and Provision of Preventive and Clinical services.
He added that the centre is expected to bridge the gap by providing a “safe and confidential centre for young people”.
“From experience, young people would rather patronize quacks instead of facilities offering health and counseling services, as these quacks are perceived as “confidential though not safe”, while the hospitals are ‘safe’ but not ‘confidential.’
“It is therefore important to create a safe and confidential place for these young people, hence, the establishment Adolescent/Youth Sexual Reproductive Health unit also known as Hello Lagos; a place to reach out to the young people of Lagos State,” he said.
Idris stated that one important determinant of adolescent and young people’s sexual and reproductive health is their access to and uptake of information about reproductive health services stressing that Youth friendly sexual and reproductive health services available at Hello Lagos are tailored to ensure confidentiality and privacy; train non-judgmental providers and have youth participation.
This story was published in Newswatch Times on February 18, 2016.