The Gambia Government must Reactivate the FGM law

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Female Genital Mutilation is a procedure where the female genital organs are intentionally altered or injured for non-medical reasons. It is often carried out on young girls between infancy and age 15. According to the UN, more than 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone FGM in 30 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and the Middle East where it is mostly concentrated.

From a Gambian context, research shows that 75% of women and girls between the ages of 15 and 49 years have undergone FGM. Despite this escalating prevalence, FGM is seen by many as a right of passage, cleanliness and a way of preserving dignity and social status. 

However, it has been found that FGM has no health benefits for girls and women and can cause severe bleeding, urinary problems, cysts, infections, complications in childbirth and increased risk of newborn deaths as well as psychological problems. 

FGM is a violation of the human rights of girls and women and is condemned by many international treaties and conventions as well as by national legislations in various countries. The Gambia for example has banned FGM in 2015, however the practice continues behind closed doors. In 2016, two women were charged with offences ranging from conspiracy to commit a felony and being accomplices to female circumcision after a 5 months old baby girl died from FGM. In the aftermath of this incident, FGM became a silence topic of conversation within the Gambian community.

With a new found democracy and of course a new government, the issue of FGM has reemerged. Many people believe that the legislation on FGM has vanished together with the old regime. Infact, a prominent Imam during the previous regime (Imam Fatty) has recently been in the spotlight propagating FGM, creating confusion and rawl in the communities. He claimed that FGM was embedded in the Islamic religion. 

However, this is not the case. We know from history that FGM predates Islam and any other religion.  Hence, anyone found justifying the practice of FGM is inevitably promoting violence against and must therefore be dealt with accordingly. It is therefore paramount for the government to commission national FGM awareness campaign focusing on the health and legal aspects of FGM.

Please join me and other Gambian feminists in calling for the new government to take a clear stands on the issue and publicly announce and strengthen the legislation on FGM. The government must also ensure that the law is clear in its definition so that people know what acts or omissions are criminal in nature. Kindly sign our petition. Thank you