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Assembly Committee wants FGM ban maintained

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By Omar Bah

The National Assembly Joint Committee on Health and Gender has recommended that the law banning female genital mutilation be maintained. 

The Joint Committee was tasked to consider and scrutinise the Women’s Amendment Bill 2024 introduced by Fôni Kansala representative Almameh Gibba seeking to repeal the 2015 anti-FGM law.

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Yesterday, the committee presented its findings and recommendations to the Assembly arguing that it had taken a thorough review of the process, to meticulously examine each of the proposed amendments together with the overarching objectives and ramifications. The committee said experts and relevant stakeholders’ opinions were sought to ensure a well-informed scrutiny.

In its recommendations seen by The Standard, the Joint Committee stated: “Having considered and scrutinise the bill and heard various experts and opinions, (we) hereby recommends as follows: That the Women (Amendment) Act, 2015 should be maintained to prohibit female circumcision in all forms of whether genital mutilation or cutting in The Gambia; repealing the ban on FGM/C would expose women and girls to severe health risks and violate their right to physical and mental well-being;

the practice of FGM/C has been consistently linked to numerous health complications, including chronic pain, infections, obstetric risks, and psychological trauma; preserving the ban is essential for safeguarding the health and dignity of women and girls in The Gambia whiles on the other hand the continuation of FGM/C perpetuates harmful gender inequalities and discrimination against women and girls; by maintaining the ban, The Gambia can reaffirm its commitment to gender equality and promote social development by challenging harmful cultural norms and practices” .

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The Joint Committee also opined that rejecting the repeal of the FGM/C ban is crucial for fostering an inclusive society where everyone can thrive free from violence and discrimination.

“Girls and women who are at risk or have undergone FGM/C should have access to legal support and protection. This includes access to shelters, counselling, and other support services. Also, continued research and data collection are necessary to understand the prevalence of FGM/C, its impact on individuals and communities, and the effectiveness of interventions aimed at preventing and addressing it,” the committee noted.

The committee urged the government to enforce the law banning FGM as well as issue clear policy directives prohibiting the practice and provide continuous legal protections for girls and women at risk. “Comprehensive public awareness campaigns and educational programmes should be implemented to raise awareness about the harmful effects of FGM/C and promote gender equality and women’s rights, healthcare providers should be trained to recognise and address the physical and psychological consequences of the practice. They should also provide support and medical care for girls and women who have undergone FGM/C and clearly ban any attempt to medicalise the practice,” it urged.

The committee stressed that Gambia’s commitment to national, regional, and international conventions, such as CEDAW, CRC, and the Maputo Protocol, reflects its dedication to eliminating discrimination and promoting gender equality.

“The practice of FGM/C directly violates these commitments by infringing upon the fundamental right to health and causing severe physical and psychological harm to women and girls. Allowing FGM/C to continue undermines gender equality and perpetuates, abuse, and discrimination, contradicting the principles enshrined in the 1997 Constitution. Repealing laws against FGM/C would not only violate human rights but also hinder community development and the country’s progress towards a more inclusive and equitable society,” it concluded.

The controversial bill will be tabled for its third reading on 16 July.

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