The Minority Leader of the National Assembly has said that the majority of the people they (lawmakers) represent still cherish and practise female genital mutilation.
Samba Jallow said anti-FGM activists in the country were being economical with the truth about the longstanding practice.
He told The Standard: “I disagree with Dr Isatou Touray that the ‘greater percentage of the people we represent want FMG to be outlawed’. We [lawmakers] know what is happening in our constituencies. The people, our people are still practising it. I don’t support FGM as an individual but when it comes to taking a decision on behalf of my people, it is a different issue. Even women who have gone through the process are supporting it and they would get furious if you tell them that their daughters should not be circumcised. My wife is no exception to this. So there are many contradictions with regard to FGM. Activists are claiming that women who have undergone the practice are affected but these very women are saying that is not true. I think the activists should continue their advocacy and try to win more support.
“The issue of FGM is controversial in our religion [Islam]. Some of our scholars believe in it and others don’t. Will I be ready to speak against FGM? Well, we found our great grandparents practising it and some of the negative consequences that are being associated with the practice are questionable. You may say they are not true. They [activists] say it causes problems during delivery but how were our women delivering when FGM was more widespread than today? Women used to be delivered in homes without the help of a doctor…
“There is no other reason why authorities are dragging their feet in banning FGM than the sensitive nature of the issue. If the Government does anything that the women do not like, they will punish them at the polls. That is the belief. If the bill comes to the National Assembly and meets my conditions, I will vote for FGM to be banned. I would have gotten back to the people who voted me as their representative and sought their advice because any bill that seeks to ban FGM will affect their lives.
“It is left to Dr Isatou Touray to push her agenda forward and continue her advocacy against FGM. We know that she could not send a bill to the national assembly directly from her office but this can be discussed with authorities that are responsible for sending bills to the National Assembly. In fact, we tried to avoid validation workshops because we never wanted to be part of the making of a bill which will later be sent to the National Assembly. If I make a comment about a particular bill and I later have it before me at the National Assembly but with some changes that I do not agree with, what will I say? I did hear that she talked about ignorance about FGM as being very much widespread at the National Assembly but it is her job to educate those who lacked understanding of FGM.”