VAGINA RECONSTRUCTIONS: WE DID IT BECAUSE IT WAS A SPECIAL CASE
The Executive Director and Founder of Benjamin Olowojebutu Foundation, Dr. Benjamin Olowojebutu, who is aa surgeon and maternal health specialist shared this story with our Correspondent.
I 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,” Olowojebutu begins.
“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 sxx. No one would have been able to have sxx 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.”
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 sxxual and reproductive functions would be restored and improved upon once she begins to have sxx.
Edem, however, had no boyfriend or husband with whom she might test or try to live out her newfound life.
Olowojebutu calls on government at all levels to enforce laws violating the rights and dignity of women and girls, especially as regard FGM.
FGM still practised in Nigeria despite VAPP Act
It was the need to protect women and girls from violence such as this that led to the enactment of the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act, 2015, which seeks to protect the rights of citizens from all forms of violence and abuse.
Rights of victims of violence are safeguarded under Section 38 of the Act, in addition to the rights guaranteed under Chapter IV of the 1999 Constitution as amended.
Yet, female genital mutilation is still being practiced in Nigeria to date, especially in the South-East and South-West parts of the country, according to available evidence.
Types of FGM
Online sources say about 20 million women and girls in Nigeria have undergone female genital mutilation. Experts say there are four types of FGM, meanwhile.
Type one is the removal of the hood of the clitoris. Type 2 is the removal of the entire clitoris as well as part of the small lip of the vagina; while type 3 is the total excision of the entire female genitalia and suturing of the vagina — also known as infibulation.
Type 4 is said to be anything done to the vagina that cannot be assigned to the categories above.
According to the World Health Organisation, FGM has no health benefits, and it harms girls and women in many ways.
Data from the WHO shows that FGM causes multiple sexual health problems for the survivors, such as damage to a female’s anatomic structures that are directly involved in sxxual function, and can therefore have an effect on the victim’s sxxual health and well-being.
“Removal of, or damage to, highly sensitive genital tissues, especially the clitoris, may affect sxxual sensitivity and lead to sxxual problems, such as decreased sxxual desire and pleasure; pain during sxx, difficulty during penetration, decreased lubrication during intercourse, and reduced frequency or absence of orgasm (anorgasmia),” says the WHO on its website.
As part of efforts to eliminate the practice globally, the United Nations sets February 6 of every year as International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation, in order to raise awareness on the negative impact of the traditional practice.
The theme of this year’s commemoration was ‘Unleashing Youth Power: A decade of accelerating actions towards zero female genital mutilation.’
Cut the clitoris, kill sexual urge
Attesting to the pain of most survivors of FGM during sexual intercourse, the Chief Matron at Eko Hospital, Mrs. Fidelia Anaele, says the main stimulant for sxx in a woman’s body is the clitoris.
“When you cut off the clitoris, sensitivity for sex is gone. In this case, the man has to do a lot of things to stimulate the woman. Such women need external aids such as creams, to increase their libido.
“Apart from that, FMG is so dangerous to the point that during healing, there could be fibrous tissue and for the man to penetrate during sxxual intercourse, it will be very difficult and therefore, make the exercise a painful experience for the woman,” Anaele explains.
“This not only makes sexual intercourse painful for such women, it also creates fear among them whenever their husbands demand for sxx.
“Such experience has broken many homes. Many husbands are, today, having extra-marital affairs as a result of their wives’ low libido, as well as their poor response to sxx,” she notes.
“Oftentimes, some women, when they are with their husbands, are not aroused because their stimulant — that is the clitoris — has been removed.”
She enjoined parents to stop the practice of FMG so that their female children could enjoy their homes when they get married.
According to her, ending the harmful practice will also help check infidelity which she noted had destroyed many homes.
Besides painful sexual intercourse, UNICEF Child Protection Specialist, Dr. Sunbo Odebode, says FGM has a combination of many consequences — psychological, physiological and health-wise.
Odebode says, “People should stop the harmful practice. It is injurious to health and has lots of health consequences. It has psychological and physiological impact on the lives of women and girls.
“The consequences can be short- or long-term. For some, when they grow into adulthood and become of child-bearing age, having sxxual intercourse becomes painful because the place is already scarred.
“Also, during childbirth, it’s hard for the vagina to dilate for the baby to come out.”
The child protection specialist pointed out that the problem might result in prolonged labour.
“Some bleed excessively and become prone to infections. Some are prone to retention of menstrual flow. So, there are myriads of consequences of FGM. That is why we must all come together and end the practice,” she counsels.
Chairman, Association of General and Private Medical Practitioners of Nigeria, Lagos State chapter, Dr. Tunji Akintade, called on government at all levels to enforce laws violating the rights and dignity of women and girls.
He stated that the new trend of FGM practice, commonly referred to as ‘medicalisation of FGM,’ was totally unacceptable, asking the public to report any medical practitioner found in the harmful practice to the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria for disciplinary action.
Another UNICEF Child Protection Specialist, Maryam Enyiazu, described the practice of FGM as ‘baseless and unfounded.’
Giving an overview of FGM practice in Nigeria and its impact, Enyiazu noted, “We have a lot of documented evidence that shows that there is no added value in getting female children mutilated.
“To start with, it is an infringement on their fundamental human rights and we have documented evidence of the health implications of FGM. The immediate and the long-term effects of the practice are many.
“Some of the short-term effects of FGM include, excessive bleeding, infections that can lead to complicated labour, and, in some cases, it leads to HIV infections because it is usually carried out in very unhygienic surroundings using unsterilised equipment.
“Again, as a result of excessive bleeding because it is not done under any form of anaesthesia, it can lead to death,” she explains.
FGM survivors can enjoy sxx
The medical experts, however, suggested ways survivors could improve their sex life saying, “There are some creams and lubricants available that can help them, which can play the role of the clitoris when applied around the walls of the vagina.
“The women should also try and have a mindset of enjoying their husbands, despite the challenge. They can also have urge for sex by watching sxx videos,” the experts suggested