The traditional ruler of Umunna in Orlu Local Government Area of Imo State, Okwarachukwu IV, Eze (Dr) Douglas Okwara, has said that the community is not aware of any law banning female genital mutilation (FGM) in the state.
Okwara who spoke to our correspondent against the backdrop of the campaign by the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) to end the unwholesome practice in the state, said that the practice was optional and members of the community had the choice to reject the practice.
Imo State House of Assembly had in December 2017 enacted a law against FGM. The law, known as Imo State Female Genital Mutilation (Prohibition) Law, No. 6 of 2017, stipulates a jail term of 14 years or a fine of N250, 000 for anybody who indulges in the practice.
Some communities in the area in 2019, in an event put together by the Ministry for Gender and Vulnerable Groups with support from UNFPA, publicly denounced the practice and vowed to end it.
However, the monarch said that he was not aware of such a public announcement, nor had he heard of a law against it, adding that since it’s a practice that he saw right from childhood, he’s neither in support or avers to it.
He said, “This is a practice we grew up to and it has not been stopped by anybody. It is our Omenala (tradition) in Umunna. However, it’s up to individuals to either cut the genitals of their children or not. We have not stopped it and we don’t have the power to stop it. It’s not in my power to stop it because you can only take a horse to the river but cannot force it to drink water,” he said.
On the harmful effect of the practice in his community, Eze Okwara said that no negative effect of the practice had been reported to his palace, nor had anybody died from such practice.