Amos Adeoye Idowu reflects on a highly controversial cultural practice which continues to have a deep impact on women’s right to equality, physical integrity, dignity and privacy: female genital mutilation (FGM). One of the greatest paradoxes in many nations, he argues, is the increasing contrast between achievements in struggles against human rights violations and insistence on conservative socio-cultural identities.
Focusing on Nigeria, he notes the refusal of people of various ethnic groups to disengage from different forms of FGM– a practice which continues despite campaigns opposing it on account of its health hazards as well as international conventions and domestic laws criminalising it. The article analyses factors responsible for its persistence and appraises its effects on the fundamental rights of women and female children. Weighing up the various arguments, it concludes that the law must not only impose penalties but must be accompanied by education of all those concerned. “[I]t may be necessary”, it is argued, “to consider the underlying factors that make some people so protective of their culture that they would attempt to preserve it in its original form even if it means the death of fellow human beings.”