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Barrow says gov’t committed to upholding FGM ban

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By Omar Bah

President Adama Barrow revealed Thursday that his government is committed to abide by a 2015 ban on female genital mutilation, even as a bill comes before parliament that could see the law revoked.

Human rights groups and the United Nations have warned that overturning the ban would make Gambia the first country to roll back protections against the practice.

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The criminalisation of FGM was approved nine years ago, but the practice has not been eradicated.

In March, the National Assembly put forward an amendment to the law that is now being considered by a parliamentary committee, which is to present its findings in the coming days.

“While awaiting its outcome, the government remains committed to enforcing the prohibition of FGM in The Gambia,” he said.

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Last month, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called Barrow over the issue to make it clear that Washington opposed what he termed “horrific” practices and would be “incredibly concerned” if the ban were rescinded.

The UN children’s agency Unicef defines FGM as “all procedures involving the partial or total removal of the female external genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.”.

It can lead to serious health problems, including infections, bleeding, infertility, complications in childbirth, and impaired sexual pleasure.

The issue has divided public opinion in The Gambia for months.

According to Unicef, Gambia is one of ten main countries where the practice continues despite the 2015 ban, with an estimated 73 percent of women and girls aged 15 to 49 having undergone the procedure.

Barrow is caught between international pressure to uphold and enforce the ban and traditionalists who want to see the legislation revoked.

The UN has urged action against the practice following a March report estimating that more than 230 million girls and women worldwide are survivors of FGM.

Still on matters of women and children’s welfare, President Barrow said moving forward, in 2024, “We plan to expand the special court for children to handle more cases and set up a forensic lab dedicated to processing evidence in SGBV cases, specifically for rape.”

Women’s NA representation

The Gambian leader said to uphold women’s effective participation, “I entreat the National Assembly to approve the Private Member Bill, which advocates a 30% governance quota for affirmative action.”.

“These efforts demonstrate our dedication to transforming the social welfare landscape by creating a safer and more equitable space for women and children in The Gambia,” he said.

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