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Circumcision: Held hostage by tradition



Circumcision: Held hostage by tradition

It may have been outlawed by modern laws, but tradition still holds sway. Female circumcision is still observed by some family cultures and traditions despite several warnings and life threatening issues against it. It is as important as one’s life in some African settings. Kayode Olanrewaju writes



For Victoria Adekanye, mother of four, her experience with the circumcision of her daughter was like a proverbial, ‘fart which cannot be inhaled and salt that cannot be spat out of the mouth at the same time.’ All was going well for her; the arrival of a baby girl to her family was an added bundle of joy. But 40 days after the birth, she lost the baby to circumcision, in the name of compulsory family tradition.
Mrs. Adekanye, who has relocated to the United States of America, is still agonising over the death of her first daughter, who she claimed allegedly died of complications of a forceful circumcision (genital mutilation) by her husband’s family tradition.
Recounting her ordeal to New Telegraph, Adekanye, who resides on Bennett Drive, Indianapolis, Indiana, United States, and married to Mr. Gbenga Adekanye from Oyin Akoko royal family in Akoko North-West Local Government Area in Ondo State, blamed the tradition of her husband’s royal family to circumcise all female children born into the family for the death of their daughter, Abiodun Adekanye, who was born January 15, 2000.
The woman, while narrating her predicament before she relocated to the United States of America, recalled: “The birth of our daughter was a blessing to the family, until the family of my husband said we should bring the child home for circumcision, which I kicked against, given the fact that female circumcision had been outlawed by the international community, which Nigeria is not an exception to the convention. But, we were told that it is the tradition of the family, and that all female children born into the royal family should be circumcised as a culture of the royal hood.
“The trouble began shortly after the birth of the child when my mother-in-law Mrs. Janet visited us in our Lagos home with some of my husband’s uncles, Messrs Owolabi and Abbey Adekanye. They told us that there is a tradition in the family in which all the female children have to be circumcised and so my daughter must be circumcised as well within the next 40 days.
“Against, our wish and that of the law against genital mutilation, February 23, 2000, they came back to our house and circumcised the child, a development which later resulted to bleeding as the baby was profusely crying in agony. As a result of this, my mother-in-law, who told me that the child’s reaction was normal, later agreed to stay back with us for some days.
“But, four days after she left us, March 1, 2000 precisely, my child died. Unfortunately, tradition did not allow my husband and I, to report the incidence to the police or civil society organisations in order not to put the family into crisis, also not to rise against the people’s tradition. We feared what such decision could bring to the family. Sadly, we have to keep this to ourselves as we continued to live with a troubled mind over the loss of our child and the agony of a tradition.”
According to her, after the death of their daughter, God became merciful to her as she gave birth to four other children, Boluwatife, Mofeoluwa, Oluwanifemi and the only son, Oluwashindara, but not without the insistence of the family to circumcise the other, a development, which she said she and her husband vehemently fought and rebuffed. “Three months after the birth of our second child, who is also a female child, my husband family members came again for the same mission to circumcise our new daughter, but this time my husband had to refuse any entreaty and decided to chase them out of our house in defiant to the family’s tradition,” Mrs. Adekanye noted.
According to her, when the family persisted and not willing again to submit her daughter for circumcision, she had to run with the child to her parent’s house in Ilesha, Osun State, where she stayed for some months, which almost caused her peace and marriage, as her parents insisted that she should divorce. “However, in July 2001, my husband came to plead with my parents to release me and the child to join him in Lagos with a promise that he would not submit the child for the tradition. Besides, he assured them that he would change where we were living in Lagos so that no family member would know our new place,” she recalled.
Consequently, when my parents asked if I still wish to live with my husband in view of my plight over my children, my answer was affirmative, since I could not bring myself to the reality of a divorce. For my parents, that was the only option. I couldn’t bring myself to doing that because I love my husband and he loves me as well. Indeed, all I wanted for my family and my daughter was to live a normal life with both parents actively, as divorce is always a setback for children in most cases. “After much plea by my husband to have me and my child to join him, I again told my parents that I wish to be with him, and they allowed him to take us back to Lagos and we started living together with our daughter. True to his words, he made sure that none of his family members knew we were back from Osun State and where we were living.” Still narrating her predicament, Mrs. Adekanye, who said at that time she secured a job with Guiness Nigeria Plc, and in April 28, 2004, gave birth to their third daughter, Mofeoluwa, while they have to change their accommodation in order to hide from family members so that they would not know their whereabouts. “When we had our third daughter, Oluwanifemi, on June 20, 2007, we also changed accommodation. But shortly after, my husband family members located our new place and insisted on circumcising the new child, having succeeded in hiding the first two and run afoul of the family tradition, which repercussion would be grievous on us and the entire royal family.
Faced with this daunting tradition, Mrs. Adekanye said, so as to protect the life of their child and run away from the tradition, in March 2008, she and her husband had to run with their last daughter (Oluwanifemi) and relocated to the United Kingdom (UK), while Boluwatife and Mofeoluwa were kept with her sister in Ile-Ife, Osun State. While in the UK, she said her sister called several times to inform them of her husband’s family member’s threat, asking her to release the children to them. To make their threat real, on March 28, 2008, her husband’s family members stormed her sister’s house in Osun state to beat her, but she also decided not to report the incident to the police for fear of the embarrassment it could bring to the family, being a royal family. “Following this, we returned to Nigeria to take our children and changed our accommodation to a new place to protect the children from the harmful tradition. “It was during this period that I gave birth to our fourth child- a male. May 15, 2010 and to avoid the family members harassment, I returned to my parent’s house with the four children. Despite this, my husband’s family still came to my parent’s house with a new threat that we will lose all the children for going against the family tradition by not circumcising our female children,” she said. They however, insisted that our first daughter, Boluwatife, should be circumcised before she turned 16 years old, a development which further compounded our predicament. By this time, Mrs.Adekanye said she no longer had a job as her appointment had been terminated by her employer as a result of her emotional and psychological instability.
According to her, it was at that time she applied for the American Visa, to at least to escape from the trauma of the wicked tradition and reorganise her life. Meanwhile, having taken that decision, but with her husband and children, whose lives are not safe in Nigeria, she recalled she could still not find the desired rest and so she returned home once again. “But, as God would smile on the family, my husband decided to apply for visas for him and the children, which was granted and we left with all our kids for the United States to protect the kids from genital mutilation curse placed on them by the harmful culture and tradition,” she said.
Although, the Adekanye family is not the only one in this type of predicament held hostage by one tradition or the other. Mrs. Adekanye, however, urged Nigerian Government and the society in particular to prevent the people from such harmful culture and tradition, and many other lifw threatening cultural practices. Her husband, Mr. Adekanye, one of the descendants of Oba Adekanye II, the Oloyin of Oyin Akoko, who also condemned the tradition, and the trauma his family had to go through, recalled his ordeal as this had negatively affected his home and business. Adekanye, a businessman who deals in haulage and who lives in Nigeria but regularly visits his family in the United States, recalled how his family members came to his residence and set the building ablaze and as well touched his business outlet during one of his business trips and visits to America to see his family. He said when the matter was reported to the police, they advised him to meet his family to resolve the issues since it is a family affair, while his insurance company after their investigations and findings refused to pay any damages to him as a result of the attack. To avoid further threat to his life, property and that of his business, he has decided to finally relocate to the United States to join his family so that he could properly take good care of them.
Meanwhile, a new study released two days ago says there is significant decline’ in female genital mutilation in Africa. The rate of girls under the age of 14 who undergo female genital mutilation (FGM) in Africa has seen a “huge and significant decline” over nearly three decades, according to a new analysis.
The study, published two days ago, in the global health journal BMJ, drew on data from two prior surveys that covered nearly 210,000 children in 29 countries between 1990 and 2017.
According to the study, an estimated 200 million women and girls around the world are estimated to have suffered the traditional mutilation, which experts and rights advocates say has devastating consequences on women’s physical and psychological health, including complications during childbirth. Some countries have made efforts to ban FGM outright.
The BMJ study found the steepest decline in East Africa, where FGM rates fell from 71.4% in 1995 to just 8% in 2016. (FGM has historically been widely prevalent in East Africa: a 2016 UNICEF report found that 98% of women and girls in Somalia experienced genital cutting.)
Other African regions exhibiting declining rates were North Africa, where the percentage of girls who underwent FGM decreased from 57.7% to 14.1% between 1990 and 2015, and West Africa, where the rate fell from 73.6% in 1996 to 25.4% in 2017.
But the study also found that in two Middle Eastern countries, Yemen and Iraq, the rate of girls undergoing FGM actually increased. Researchers also expressed concerns that growing stigma around FGM may discourage families from reporting it in areas where it is still practiced.
“Preventing FGM should be a major public health priority in countries and regions still showing a high prevalence among children,” Ngianga-Bakwin Kandalathe, the study’s lead author, told AFP.
While the study’s authors acknowledged that outlawing FGM may help contribute to its decline, they also advocated for “culturally sensitive” efforts to deter it in regions where the procedure still retains strong cultural and traditional associations.

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