DISTURBING: Four Nigerian Women Share The Dehumanising Impact Of FGM On Their Lives

Female genital mutilation (FGM), also known as female genital cutting and female circumcision, is the ritual cutting or removal of some or all of the external female genitalia.

It involves the removal of the clitoris, inner-and-outer lips of the vagina, and the sewing or stapling together of the two sides of the vulva leaving only a small hole to pass urine and menstruate – depending on the type.

The practice causes numerous health problems which can be fatal. Some young women and girls have also lost their lives in the process.

From not enjoying sex to experiencing retained menstrual flow, Nigerian women share with PUNCH their disturbing sexual experiences.

A 47-year-old mother of four and FGM survivor, is an industrial chemist and senior staff of a major petro-chemical industry. To Eberechi, sex is nothing but pain. She shared:

“I find sex rather painful and unpleasant due to the scar that resulted from mutilation when I was circumcised as a child. I blame my parents for it all.”

Ebere (for short) has been married to husband, Jude for 18 years, but, as she says, she enjoys everything about her life and marriage except the sex.

“It has been an interesting experience, career-wise, in the last 20 years. But maritally, it has been rough. My 18 years of marriage with four lovely children is laced with mixed feelings. Though.  Jude is a caring husband, the problem has to do with sex.

I am a survivor of FGM and this has affected my sex life, as I find it difficult to have sex with my husband to date. The pain I usually experience during penetration normally puts me off. So, I see nothing exciting about sexual intercourse.

Sometimes, I wonder what it’s all about when I see women talk about sex with so much passion and excitement. I doubt what they say, considering my experience.”

Sharing her frustration with PUNCH HealthWise, Ebere said,

”I got married a virgin. So, ordinarily, you would expect the first sexual intercourse to be painful. But after two weeks, it was still difficult to have sex as a result of pain.

It was like being penetrated with a sharp razor. This continued for two months until we visited a health expert to ascertain what the problem was.

After a medical examination, the doctor said my entire clitoris had been cut off and that the wound healed so poorly, leaving a scar around the walls of my vagina.

So, having sex has not been easy like other women whose clitorises are still intact. I had to endure the pain to be able to have kids and I delivered through Caesarian sections as a result.”

She confessed that the pain she experiences during sex had made her husband lose interest in lovemaking, concluding, “I blame my parents anyway.”

SEE ALSO: What Will Now Be Done To Nigerian Parents Who Still Indulge In Female Genital Mutilation In The UK

My three sisters and I were mutilated

A food vendor at Bolade Oshodi area of Lagos, who simply identified herself as Agnes, also shared similar experience of the consequences of FGM on her sex life. Agnes explained:

“You know that my people do FGM a lot. I come from Imo State and my three sisters and I were mutilated. The impact has been telling on us for many years now that we have been married.

“I got married 10 years ago, but up to now, I still don’t find sex exciting, compared to those who were not cut. Same with my older sisters who married before me.

“I have some friends who were not cut and whenever we all talk about sex, they are not scared like me. My husband, on the other hand, keeps complaining about my poor attitude to sex. Same with my sisters’ husbands.”

“But, what do we do? When they have cut off the clitoris that is created by God to make a woman happy during sex, what else can the woman do? Except she has an understanding husband, FGM can break the home as a result of the wife’s lack of interest in sex.”

An Ibadan-based secondary school teacher and mother-of-two who preferred anonymity, said it was difficult for any woman to enjoy sexual intercourse  when the exercise  is painful. She narrated:

“I am always afraid of sex because I was severely cut. I get scared each time my husband comes asking for it and sometimes, when I turn down his request, it results in quarrel.”

READ ALSO: Ekiti Community Officially Renounces Practice Of Female Genital Cutting (FGM/C)

‘Classic case of horrendous act’

But the story of Edem, a 43-year old woman from Akwa Ibom State appears more complicated, according to Executive Director and Founder, Benjamin Olowojebutu Foundation, Dr. Benjamin Olowojebutu, who shared her story with PUNCH Correspondent.

Olowojebutu, who is a surgeon and maternal health specialist, had repaired Edem’s vagina. He says Edem’s case is “a classic example of dehumanising impact of FGM.”

“Edem wasn’t really circumcised. Hers was a classic case of female genital mutilation. She had her vagina mutilated. Given the age this horrendous act was carried out, she probably had almost everything removed. From the clitoris to the labia minora, even a large part of her labia majora were completely expunged.

The healing of the cut was also poorly managed and then she had infections and developed vaginal stenosis, which is the narrowing and loss of flexibility of the vagina, accompanied by dryness and loss of resilience of the tissue.

“In her case, the mutilation also narrowed the vaginal opening, asides the scar, to the point where even the pinky finger may not conveniently get in.

“I must say, it was terribly done and even if she lived till the age of 60, she would have remained a virgin, no matter how much she craved a relationship with the opposite sex. No one would have been able to have sex with her,” the surgeon explains.

According to the surgeon, Edem’s travail was not just about her lack of vaginal opening, but she had never had a menstrual flow before her eventual surgery.

“She also had never menstruated. Because of her blocked vagina, blood could not go out of her body during menstruation, thus causing urinary tract infection, severe pain and chronic loss of libido.

“And she had multiple fibroids to deal with, too. It was actually the fibroid that brought her to the health mission.”

READ ALSO: This Is The Latest Stance Of The Honourable Commissioner For Health In Lagos, Dr. Jide Idris As Regards FGM

Vagina reconstruction

Giving further insight into Edem’s surgery, Olowojebutu says,

“It was during our health mission in Akwa Ibom State where we offered free fibroid surgeries to women. We had gone in, hoping that we would just take out the fibroid since that is our expertise; but when we realised that the woman had no vagina, we were all taken aback.

“However, from experience, I understood stenosis [abnormal narrowing of a passage in the body] as a condition that could occur as one of the consequences of terribly done circumcision and it could also be corrected surgically.

“For the reconstruction, we had to take out the fibrosed scar, layer by layer, till we got to the closed vagina and then we had to open it gradually to give her a vaginal floor that will lead to her cervix. Then we gave her a connection from the uterus to the vagina.

“Edem’s vagina had to be reconstructed before the fibroid operation. And with that, all of her sexual and reproductive functions would be restored and improved upon once she begins to have sex.”

Edem, however, had no boyfriend or husband with whom she might test or try to live out her newfound life.

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