Gambia Might Be the First Nation to Repeal Female Genital Cutting Prohibition

Gambia Might Be the First Nation to Repeal Female Genital Cutting Prohibition

Gambia Might Be the First Nation to Repeal Female Genital Cutting Prohibition

Legislators in Gambia are set to cast their votes on Monday regarding a bill that proposes the removal of the existing ban on female genital cutting. This move could position the West African country as the inaugural nation to undertake such a reversal.

Gambia Might Be the First Nation to Repeal Female Genital Cutting Prohibition

Termed also as female genital mutilation, this practice involves the partial or complete excision of the external female genitalia, frequently executed by local community figures using implements like razor blades or occasionally by medical professionals. Predominantly carried out on young girls, it is mistakenly believed to moderate a woman’s sexuality and has been known to lead to severe bleeding and fatalities. The practice continues to be prevalent in certain African regions.

Jaha Dukureh, the initiator of Safe Hands for Girls, a local organization dedicated to eradicating the practice, expressed to The Associated Press her concerns that this could pave the way for the repeal of other critical women’s rights laws. Having experienced the procedure herself and witnessing her sister’s death due to bleeding, Dukureh stated, “If they succeed with this repeal, we know that they might come after the child marriage law and even the domestic violence law. This is not about religion but the cycle of controlling women and their bodies.” According to the United Nations, over half of the female population in Gambia, aged between 15 to 49, have been subjected to this procedure.

The legislation has garnered support from religious conservatives within the predominantly Muslim country, which has a population of under 3 million. The bill’s proponents argue that it aims to “uphold religious purity and safeguard cultural norms and values.” The nation’s leading Islamic authority has described the practice as “one of the virtues of Islam.”

In 2015, Gambia’s then-leader, Yahya Jammeh, unexpectedly outlawed the practice without providing a public rationale. Since the implementation of this law, enforcement has been lax, with only two prosecutions taking place.

On the day of the vote, a diverse group of individuals assembled outside the Gambian parliament, with some displaying signs opposing the bill. They were kept at bay by police in riot gear.

With a parliamentary body of 58 members, including five women, the bill’s passage in Monday’s second reading would likely lead to its approval in a third and final reading before being presented to President Adama Barrow for enactment.

The United States has shown support for activists fighting against the practice, recently recognizing Gambian activist Fatou Baldeh with an International Women of Courage Award at the White House.

The U.S. embassy in Gambia has not disclosed whether any senior U.S. officials have contacted Gambian authorities regarding the bill. Geeta Rao Gupta, the U.S. senior envoy for global women’s issues, emphasized the importance of heeding survivors like Baldeh.

Fatou Jagne Senghore, chairperson of the local Center for Women’s Rights and Leadership, criticized the bill for undermining women’s rights and reversing recent advancements. Anna Njie, president of the local Female Lawyers Association, highlighted the medically proven risks associated with the practice.

UNICEF reported

Source: APNews

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