Girls circumcision in Nigeria – Who are the 10 – 25%?

There has being a huge drive in many UK African communities in recent years, putting shame aside and telling their stories of the scars left on them by female genital mutilation (FGM). The pains were real and memories raw for all of the women especially those who went through the extreme form of FGM. Good news is that while we Africans live in denial and didn’t see what the fuss was, UK government got involved and fully support the campaign. From next month, University College London is opening a clinic to provide both Psychological and medical treatments for the FGM victims.


Afusat Saliu, a Nigerian seeking asylum after her visitor’s visa expired begged not to be deported from the UK on the basis that she feared her two daughters will be forced to undergo FGM in Nigeria. She lost her case and was deported in June this year.

Many online commentators especially Nigerians were not empathetic towards Afusat, saying her fear was unfounded that no one in Nigeria goes through extreme form of FGM. They said this out of ignorance.

As a Yoruba, I learnt from my mother that the type of circumcision in my region was type 1 supposedly the mild form of FGM – that does not make it any sensible in any sense. She described it as an incision on the clitoris deep enough to shed blood – the reasoning behind this was as barbaric as the act itself. My part of the Yoruba do not remove the clitoris and I still do not know what the point was.

That was my knowledge of Yoruba circumcision until…

I lived at Garage Olode, a small town in Osun State – only about 20miles from my hometown. My landlord had three wives and many children. Tanwa (11) and Ganiyat (10) were the youngest of the family from two mothers. Both girls were charming, Tanwa especially was always full of excitements, always had lots to tell. She was the only child of her mother hence the name Tanwa (Omotanwa meaning the child we have been searching for).

One day, Tanwa knocked on my door in the early hour of the morning, opening the door for her, with terrifying look on her face, she ran passed me to the floor where Kemi laid, she was sobbing – Tanwa and Ganiyat were to be cut in the next 4 hours.

The mothers were not supposed to tell their girls but Tanwa’s mother knowing what she went through before having her could not keep the secret. She narrated the whole gory story to Tanwa, Tanwa was scared, had nowhere to go, she ran to my friend and I thinking we might be able to save her – we did not.

The old lady in her sixties was the assigned “torturer” of the young girls. Needless to say, hygiene was the last on the list. The tools – blades and a couple of small knives were wrapped in a dirt soaked ankara print. Tanwa was held down by four people among of which was one of her teenage half brothers (talk about incest), and three female members of the family. Some black concoction was rubbed on Tanwa’s private part but whatever that was did nothing to subdue the pain. A second later, Tanwa let out the loudest sound ever, she felt every inch of the cut – it was not a normal cry, it was shrieking sound that suggest she hated everyone and everything around her. Her clitoral hood was removed, I saw the woman held it tight between her callous thumb and index fingers, it was bloody. Kemi and I looked on in disgust but felt powerless. The whole exercise took place in the open backyard a few steps away from the bush where everyone used as toilet.

Tanwa healed quickly in a matter of days, but for the next three months that I was in the house I noticed she had lost something – a bit of herself. She was timid and less of a chatter girl she once was. Alhaji thought her timidness was a sign that she has become a woman – seemed like emotional scar to me.

Tanwa’s family were originally from Iwo – a town in Osun state well known for the Arabic/Islamic education. Is the teenage girl circumcision peculiar to people from Iwo town? Or just the majority Muslim in town? Why is the practice different from the rest of Yoruba?

Whatever the answer was, we can only help the voiceless by shedding lights about the potential danger of this needless and harmful tradition.

Afusat Saliu’s fear is valid and Nigeria need many more people like her to tell their stories, not for the purpose of getting abode in a foreign land but to serve as pointers to where girls circumcision is still rife within the country.

Attitude towards FGM has changed in the last 20 years however, we we are not there yet as the practice is going on in small towns and villages in significant numbers.

Here is another article I wrote about recent circumcision gone wrong in my hometown.

26 thoughts on “Girls circumcision in Nigeria – Who are the 10 – 25%?

  1. Thanks for the graphic account.
    I myself can not and will never support FGM. If it is such a good thing, then when the child becomes an adult they can submit themselves to that.
    Why are people so quick to cause pain and suffering to children? Not everything from outsiders is good and should be adopted. That is one thing I like about Western civilisation, they question things, and people think for themselves. This to me is not the case in Nigeria, ( I can’t talk about the rest of Africa…)
    I view it as a way to subdue women. Why do people have to be subdued? Women in the West are not subdued and guess what the moon hasn’t melted the sun still rises. I can’t understand this culture of domination and subjugation that pervades Nigerian societies. I’m thankful I am overseas, or else I would have surely perished long time ago…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for reading and for the comment.

      Lack of female education plays a big role in this.

      No one gender needed to control the other in reality, however, there are lots of insecure folks who feel women must be subdued for no other reason than ‘it’s our tradition’ this has been successfully done by the lack of access to education.

      Ha, ha, you would not perish, you will be among the few women getting their heads about the water, making their voice heard in their little ways…


  2. As ever, a bold, well argued post. Folakemi. I was once commissioned to write an article for a Baptist teen magazine in the US – to explain the different forms in plain and simple terms, and to talk about the social contexts within which it still persists in Kenya.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I live in Sudan and I have been hearing also that FGM is a very common practice (of course people still don’t discuss it openly). I would like to clarify though that this disgusting practice is rather done out of “ignorance” rather than religion because Islamically, FGM is prohibited. But as people are, they take what they want out of religion and what they don’t like (such as prohibition of female circumcision) they ignore. Thanks again for shedding light on this highly important topic.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Many thanks kaygy.

      I agree with you that FGM practice cuts across religious line in the case of Nigeria. Actually today, most that still practice it in my area are of both two major religions – Christian and Muslim. And one case that went wrong in my town a few years back was done in a church, this is because the Mission House mother says so.

      It’s awful that people believed they should suffer in silence. Very sad. There’s hope given many people are open about it now.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks for telling these first-hand stories. FGM is dirty, senseless and barbaric – even the mildest forms and it is a shame that Africans and Middle Easterners and Nigerian Northern Muslims who practise the very horrible types have exported the practice to other lands where they continue to practice it. Education that is supposed to liberate minds seems to have little influence on matters of traditional practices.

    Female “circumcision” does not belong in this age.


    Liked by 2 people

  5. Wow Thank you for BEING so BOLD with your posts and bringing the dirt up to the surface. (as my post about the frequency vortex mentions) This for someone who has a daughter I very well would have been put in that position, what a dreadful action for so many to have and still experience. I will continue to pray from my heart that the reason we hear about this is because it has to end! You are my sister in the angelic realm coming together to be the change!! I applaud your courage and your strength in Love my friend Heart to Heart Robyn

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you Robyn. The courageous ones are these UK ladies, listening to them even after several years, one could feel their pains. What a world we live in. I am hopeful that their work will enlighten many more people in the dark on this inhumane practice.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for reading and for the kind comment. You are doing a great job on your blog too, I enjoyed reading about those lovely recipes, now I know where to stop if I crave something different and nutritious.


  6. I feel like throwing up, really. The worst part is that the reasons given for this barbaric act are meaningless as well as baseless. What would have happened had Tanwa’s mother refused to let them cut her daughter?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Feeling like throwing up? I liked that. That was how I felt and I think we need more women to feel this way to reverse the practice.

      Tanwa’s mother could refuse but she will be prepared to not only get out of Alhaji’s house, she will move out of town where she can’t be found. I think if she has enough money and family/friends supports she seemed like someone who could do just that.


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