Editor's note: Despite the global condemnation and outcry against circumcision, female gen.ital mutilation and cutting is still rampant in Nigeria, posing a big threat to the female gender.
In a chat with Oluwadamilare Moriyeke, the Legit.ng regional reporter in Ondo state, Yemisi Kolade, a mother of three shared her bitter experience and revealed how her in-laws subjected her, two daughters and entire household to unspeakable dehumanisation.
Speaking about her experience on female gen.ital mutilation and cutting, Kolade said: “It all started on November 27, 2001 when I gave birth to our first child and daughter, Beauty Ayomide Kolade.
"We received a call from our home town in Ikare-Akoko, the headquarters of Akoko northeast local government area of Ondo state to bring our baby home immediately after her naming ceremony for circumcision according to family tradition.
“We declined the order under a pretense that she was too fragile to travel as a newborn. Later, we received a letter from the Kolade’s family head, a large extended family, dated December 17, of that same year, asking us to bring our daughter home after she clocked one month along with money for a she-goat to perform the traditional rites of circumcision as it is usually done for every female child.
“Again, we declined under the pretense of doctor’s advice that Beauty was too fragile to travel more than two to three hours.
“Thereafter, we got another letter dated January 30, 2002, to remind us of the importance of bringing the baby home and the consequences of failure to do so, because it is their belief that any incident of uncircumcised female child would bring calamities upon the family. As at that time, the letter from the head of the family gave another three months ultimatum, stressing that the baby would be able to travel then.”
“Despite the three months ultimatum given, we still declined the order because apart from the fact that it is an act practised against human right, which is also no longer obtainable these days. I am also a victim of female circumcision; my family too subjected me to this wicked act when I was a little child.”
Asked whether or not she experienced the same agony as a child by his parents and family, she said: “Yes, I did not only get circumcised but also a victim of the complication associated with it. My mother related her experience to me and the trauma she went through due to tetanus infection that I contracted after circumcision was carried out on me. Up till today, each time I recall the story it affects me psychologically!
“So, when our daughter, Beauty, was six months old, we were paid a sudden and uninformed visit by my mother-in-law and two other heads of the Kolade’s family on June 6, 2002, compelling us to yield to this old family practice. Then, we knew it was a serious matter.”
She said that though she reported that matter to the government agency, she and her husband later realized the reason they should urgently hide their daughter to avoid being subjected to unforeseen trauma.
“Yes, we reported the matter to the police on June 7, 2002. Then, we discovered that there was an urgent need to hide our daughter by way of changing our address, following the sudden visit of the extended family, believing that it would be difficult for them to trace us if we moved out of the address they already knew. We eventually started moving from one accommodation to the other at the same time, changing our daughter’s schools time to time as the only means of escape”, she said.
But Mrs. Kolade said that the change of address could not stop the family from locating where they relocated to.
She said: “At all, this we did for years living in perpetual fear of what the extended family could come up with as our daughter was growing. Not until July 1, 2007, in a desperate attempt to get our daughter circumcised, I was terribly beaten and brutalised as I struggled not to surrender my daughter when members of the extended family traced us to one of the new addresses we just moved in. They tried to forcefully kidnap my daughter for this wicked act called circumcision.”
Asked if she eventually succumbed to her husband’s family wish, she added: “No, even though what we thought would fade away on the minds of members of the family turned out to be a declaration of war, and my husband immediately had to resort to police intervention to report this inhumane treatment and also seek the support of human right groups while I was hospitalized.
“Our hope was that those agencies would help us wade into the matter by establishing the fact that circumcision is a brutal act performed against humanity and no longer practised worldwide.
She added that the police could not stop the family form carrying out the circumcision, saying that, “Not really, although the police intervened but later asked us to settle it amicably as they perceived it from the angle of being a family matter.
“Despite the view of the police, the human rights group made good efforts to put a stop to the mess by making a publication in support of the campaign against this act. Still, all these efforts could not stop us from living in fear of what the family could do anytime.
“Following the efforts, we kept going while our daughter kept growing and on April 27, 2009, we gave birth to our third child, Omobobola, who happened to be another female child.
"Obviously, my husband and I became panicky because we were aware of more imminent troubles this would generate for us. As a matter of fact while I was pregnant with our third child, I refused scan as suggested by the physician.
“Just because I simply didn't want to know the se.x of the baby because I was afraid that if the result eventually turned to be a female child, this would lead to more fiercely persecution for refusing circumcision; and fear for such situation could lead to certain medical complications that might likely be injurious to my state of pregnancy.
“Just as we presumed, it happened following another letter written by extended family to acknowledge the birth of the newborn and reminded us of the need for circumcision rites, especially now that it is no longer one but two female children.
“They reiterated strongly their belief in their obnoxious tradition that the higher the number of uncircumcised females in their family, the more the calamities that will befall the entire family.
“Apart from the fact that we and our children were living in fear and traumatized all these while, we were at the same time stigmatized, faced and suffered a lot of persecution, unable to attend family functions, couldn’t go out as we liked and so many other things that actually caused us pains. We never responded to the letter they wrote after the delivery of our second daughter and again this triggered their annoyance.
“They threatened and expressed their readiness for another showdown, and we contacted our lawyer for advice on any legal step we could take against them. He advised that we should go and make another report at the police station and see how they would give us protection against the wrath of the family members.
“As advised by the lawyer, we went to make another report at the police station on July 8, 2009 and this made it the third time we went to complain.
As usual, the police advised us to ensure we do everything within our power to avoid the Kolade’s family and look for a way to protect our children the more as they had no power to stop the extended family not to perform the tradition that they strongly believe in. So we continued living in fear everyday while we strongly believed that one day they too would give up on us.
“Shortly after our second daughter clocked two years on May 13, 2011, we got another letter in respect of this same issue reiterating the consequences of failure to surrender our female children. We never responded to this letter as we believed strongly in the intervention of the human right groups and the stance of the World Health Organization (WHO) on circumcision.
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“Though we continued to hide our children both at home and schools, we went to the extent of letting their schools know what was on ground and never to attempt releasing our children to any stranger.
“For good five years, it was a different atmosphere entirely because they seemed to have given up. We believed that the extended family had finally given up on us and had got our freedom; little did we know that they chose to relent on their efforts for us to be taken unaware.
“It was just like a dream on June 16, 2017, just about few hours to close from school, we got a call from the management of our second daughter’s school, of Christlife Forte School, reporting that two people who claimed to be our grandparents were asking for the release of our second daughter under the pretense of acting on our instruction.
“Meanwhile, we initially believed that the family raged to get our daughters circumcised was over, thinking they have given up on us. We had thought the freedom we enjoyed between the period we got their last letter: May 13, 2011 to June 16, 2017 was as a result of efforts of the human right group over that matter, not knowing that they had their own hidden agenda to strike when we least expected.
“Consequent upon this, we became panicky and we proceeded to the police station even though they had once advised us to settle it amicably as they have no power to stop the extended family not to practice their tradition. After we launched our case, the police promised us to do their best even though their best was not good enough to put a halt to the family's raging storm.
“On June 19, 2017, the management of Christlife Forte School officially wrote a letter to notify us of the imminent danger and urged us to diligently watch out and seek protection in order to forestall any form of kidnapping of our daughter as the security apparatus of the school may not be able to guarantee the safety of children who are vulnerable to abduction.
“I am presently confused and now that an attempt was made to the extent of going to our daughter's school to kidnap her, we felt highly unsafe and I already stopped having children because of fear of uncertainty in the se.x of any next child, hence my life and that of my children are in danger. I think I have to find refuge for my family!”
Meanwhile, Legit.ng had previously reported that Nigerians living in Europe narrated how they were being charged high fees to have their male children circumcised. One of the women said she paid as high as N700,000 to have twin male children circumcised.
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