Background: To our knowledge, no studies have comprehensively evaluated the awareness, perceptions and attitudes of Igbo women of child-bearing age towards female genital mutilation (FGM) in south-eastern Nigeria. Objective: To determine the prevalence, awareness and attitude towards the practice of FGM among Igbo women of child-bearing age in Nigeria.
Methods: The study was a cross-sectional study among Igbo women of child-bearing age. Females from 16 to 45 years were included. Interviewer administered semi-structured pretested validated questionnaires were employed. The results were collected and analyzed with the SPSS version 23. Univariate analysis was performed in order to determine independent risk factors that could possibly affect prevalent rates in the population. The level of significance was set at p<0.05.
Results: The study showed that out of 367 respondents interviewed, 49 had FGM, given a prevalence of 13.4%. However, majority (98.7%) were aware of FGM, and their major sources being from family (65.0%), friends (65.0%), and media (48.5%). However, 53.7% of the respondents noted that FGM is still being practiced. Up to 88.6% of the respondents were aware of the complications of FGM and the commonest complications expressed were severe pain during FGM (82.2%), and excessive bleeding (75.7%). Majority (91.3%) stated that it is a bad practice (91.3%) and a form of violence against women (85.8%) and 87.2% want the practice to be discontinued. Most of them (80.4%) stated that FGM has no benefit owing to the fact that it is associated with complications such as difficulty in labor (68.1%) and painful sexual intercourse (47.2%), while 13.6% were indifferent whether FGM should be criminalized. The prevalence of FGM was significantly higher in the older age group (RR=0.09; 95%CI=0.042-0.194; p<0.001) and parous women (RR=1.89; 95%CI=1.084-3.309; p=0.025) compared to the younger age group and nulliparous women respectively.
Conclusion: Despite the high awareness and negative attitude of the populace to the practice of FGM and its consequences, it has still continued to persist in Nigerian communities. The prevalence of FGM was 13.4% and the commonest reasons for its continued persistence included traditional norms, preventing promiscuity and pre-marital sex. More effective measures in addition to the ongoing mass education should be put in place to stop these practices.