Recently the outgoing Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan signed into law an order that effectively made female genital mutilation illegal in the country. So, what is FGM?

Female genital mutilation is:

the collective term for a range of procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for cultural or other non-therapeutic reasons, there are various forms. -FGM National Group

Why is this important? Other than for the fact that this gruesome practice will now be punishable, it can also lead to a new trend in the history of FGM. Female genital mutilation predates this and even the last century. In fact, it’s reported that FGM can be traced back even 2000 years ago. It’s been documented as a common practice in 29 different countries, all but 2 in Africa, and still goes on today. This measure represents an effort to reduce the prevalence of this procedure, especially given how commonly it is delivered without consent.

The practice has also been documented as being used to control women’s sexuality and has been used historically on female slaves to prevent them from getting pregnant. The fact that something like this still persists and not enough people with power are exerting it in a way that hinders this act is troubling at best. Jonathan’s actions demonstrate that there is something that can be done and sets an important and historical precedent that we can all learn from.

This is a victory for Nigeria, and I can only hope the other 28 countries will follow suit.

For more information on the measure to outlaw FGM, click here.