By Aaron Ossai
A Bill for an Act to provide for the Prohibition of Facial Mutilation, Offences, Prosecution and Punishment of Offenders has passed second reading in the Senate.
The Bill is also for the Protection of victims under threat of facial mutilation and other related Matters.
According to Senator Dino Melaye (APC-Kogi), who sponsored the bill, there was no doubt that, Africans of old used tribal marks as a means of proper identification.
Leading debate on general principles of the bill, Melaye said in those days, members of the same village, tribe or lineage had the same tribal marks.
According to him, the hometown and lineage of a child or anyone with tribal marks were immediately identified, while outsiders who did not have such marks were also spotted.
He further explained that parents also used tribal marks to lay credence to the legitimacy of their children. However, the lawmaker said “all these reasons cannot be scientifically proven, and hence cannot enjoy the support for this harmful practice’’.
“The irony of these marks is that it makes victims subjects of mockery by friends. Imagine someone being called a tiger simply because of the thick cheeks resulting from facial marks.
“These people have been subjected to different reactions. Some have lamented the marks that are bequeathed on them as generational inheritance.
“Many have cursed the day which this dastardly act was performed on them.
“Many of the grown adults have confessed that the most terrific debacle of their lives is their tribal marks. Some have become eunuchs because of this stigma.
“Imagine a boy in the class of 25 pupils carrying a tribal mark. His mates will call him the boy with the railway line. They are emblems of disfiguration.
“Some of them have developed low self-esteem and most times treated with scorn and ridicule including rejection by the female folks, the reactions of people who interact with them say it dampens and lowers their spirit,’’ he said.
Speaking further, Melaye stated that besides the health implication of the practice, it was an infringement on the rights of children, adding that every Nigerian child deserved the right to live. According to him, it is time a law is enacted to stop the dastardly act, as the popularity and acceptance of facial marks are waning.
“People now prefer that their identity cards remain in their pockets not faces anymore.
“Long before the awareness programme on Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), many people, mostly children who were subjected to tribal marks had inadvertently been infected with infectious diseases.
“Sharp instruments used by locals were not sterilised leading to risk of AIDS, including Hepatitis B and C,” he added.
By Aaron Ossai