A critical analysis of social regulatory policy : the case of female genital mutilation legislation in Nigeria.
The practice of female genital mutilation is a global problem and it is prevalent in Africa. According to the United Nations Children's Education Fund (2005), each year about three million women and girls are subjected to female genital mutilation, predominantly in parts of Africa and a few Asian and Middle East countries. The situation is the same in Nigeria, Africa's most populous country, where a large number of women and children have undergone and continue to undergo female genital mutilation. According to a UNICEF study, over 32% of Nigeria's female population has endured female genital mutilation and its attendant negative health and human rights consequences (UNICEF 2003: 2).Though Nigeria does not, at present, have a federal law banning female genital mutilation, the process of introducing one has been set in motion by the House of Representatives (lower house), which passed the HB22 Bill in 2007 (Deen 2008:1), which is still awaiting ratification by the Senate (Upper House) and acceptance by the Executive. However, eight out of the thirty-six states in Nigeria have passed laws prohibiting the practice of female genital mutilation (Jimoh 2005). The broad focus of this study was to explore the implementation of social regulatory policy, using the case of the implementation of female genital mutilation legislation in Nigeria. A policy analysis of social regulatory policy was investigated, with secondary studies on the implementation of female genital mutilation legislation in Nigeria. The broad issues investigated in the study include identifying the main aims and objectives of social regulatory policy; the policy instruments employed in the implementation of social regulatory policy; the implementation process of social regulatory policy; and the challenges and successes experienced by implementors in implementing social regulatory policy. The key issues the study sought to investigate include identifying the aims and objectives of female genital mutilation legislation in Nigeria; the policy instruments employed to implement female genital mutilation legislation; the implementation process of female genital mutilation legislation; and the challenges and successes experienced by implementors in implementing female genital mutilation legislation. The findings of social regulatory policy analysis showed that public participation is critical to the effective implementation of social regulatory policies, as they may encounter implementation difficulties if there is no provision for public participation during policy formulation. This in itself can give the government a better understanding of the socio-cultural issues at stake. These studies also showed that the wrong combination of policy instruments can hinder the effectiveness of social regulatory policy. Out of the varying policy instruments employed for policy implementation, government must choose the right combination of instruments that suits the intended policy outcome, in order to produce different effects. In order for social regulatory policies to be effective, implementers responsible for implementing social regulatory policy need to understand policy goals and be committed to its objectives. Adequate resources, both capital and human, must be invested in employing and training implementing agents. Finally, building and fostering networks and collaboration with civil society are critical to the successful implementation of social regulatory policies. In terms of application to this case study, the present investigation revealed that the implementation of female genital mutilation legislation in Nigeria has been difficult, and crippled with challenges, due to a number of factors that hinder effective policy outcome. These challenges are not unrelated to the fact that democracy is still nascent in Nigeria. First, there was a lack of public participation in the policy formulation process, which had negative consequences for effective implementation. Second, policymakers did not employ suitable policy instruments and this has hindered the implementation of female genital mutilation legislation. Third, a lack of common goal definition between implementing agents and policymakers has led to problems during the implementation of the policy. Other problems which have hindered the effective implementation of the policy include lack of skilled adequate resources, both capital and human, needed for the implementation of the policy. Finally, this study showed that government's failure to involve and collaborate with other actors/stakeholders through building networks with non-governmental organizations negatively affected the policy process. Building networks encourages the exchange of skills and information which can bring about effective policy implementation. The study concludes that these problems are pertinent to social regulatory policies, in general. Public participation in the policy formulation process must be encouraged, through active collaboration with civil society; employing the right policy implementation instruments and building institutional capacity (manpower) and providing adequate funding remain critical to the effective implementation of female genital mutilation legislation, not only in Nigeria, but in other places where such practices are deeply rooted in cultural beliefs. Also, for legislation to be effective, it must comprise the appropriate legal measures (that is, creating proper legal structures and legislation that will constrain and guide the behaviour of targets), regulatory measures (this involves the use of enforcement measures in order to compel the desired behavioural change) and policy measures (which encourages the participation of the targets in the policy process).
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