Gambia’s Parliament Member Advocates for the Removal of FGM Ban

Gambia's Parliament Member Advocates for the Removal of FGM
In this April 21, 2007 file photo, a Masai girl holds a protest sign during the anti-female genital mutilation (FGM) protest in Kilgoris, Kenya. - Copyright © africanews SAYYID AZIM/AP2007

Gambia’s Parliament Member Advocates for the Removal of FGM

A Gambian legislator recently introduced a bill aimed at repealing the Women’s (Amendment) Act of 2015, which had prohibited female genital mutilation (FGM) and circumcision. The bill underwent its first reading on Monday (Mar. 04) in the national assembly. Currently, the Gambia imposes severe penalties for those convicted of performing FGM, including up to three years in prison, a fine of 50,000 dalasi (£622), or both. In cases where FGM results in death, the perpetrator could face life imprisonment.

Almameh Gibba, the sponsor of the bill, is among those in the Gambia who argue that FGM is not only a cultural practice but also a religious rite. Given that the majority of the Gambia’s population is Muslim, the issue becomes particularly sensitive, as opinions on FGM within Islamic communities can vary. While some scholars endorse the prohibition of FGM, others do not.

The ban on FGM in the Gambia has been a contentious issue since its introduction nearly a decade ago. In August of the previous year, the country witnessed its first prosecution under the 2015 law, resulting in the conviction of three women for practicing FGM. Notably, one of the influential clerics in the Gambia supported these women, highlighting the divisive nature of the topic within the country.

Seedy Njie, the deputy Speaker of the Gambia’s National Assembly, expressed a strong commitment from the majority caucus to thwart the bill. This underscores the ongoing debates and disagreements surrounding the legislation and enforcement of measures against FGM in the country.

Globally, the World Health Organization (WHO) reports that over 200 million girls and women in 30 countries across Africa, the Middle East, and Asia have undergone FGM. The practice is deeply rooted in cultural and traditional beliefs, making efforts to eradicate it complex and multifaceted.

In conclusion, the proposed bill in the Gambia, seeking to repeal the 2015 Act banning FGM, has reignited discussions on the cultural, religious, and legal aspects surrounding this practice. The nation remains divided on the issue, reflecting broader global challenges in addressing and eliminating female genital mutilation.


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