February 6 has been declared by the United Nations as International Day of Zero Tolerance of Female Genital Mutilation. Female genital mutilation comprises all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non medical reasons. Unbelievably, an estimated 125 million women and girls have experienced this brutal practice.
The procedure is practised primarily on girls from infancy through the age of 15, and occasionally on adults. As a father and husband, I’ve heard the stories of women describing the ritual where they were grabbed by their elders and mutilated. It’s horrible and difficult to believe it still occurs.
There are serious and permanent health consequences tied to the procedure according to health experts. For instance, according to the United Nations, “Babies born to women who have undergone female genital mutilation suffer a higher rate of neonatal death compared with babies born to women who have not undergone the procedure.”
To those who think campaigners are loud, rude and generally disrespectful to Islam, I have to tell them they are wrong. This campaign reflects how the girl child suffers in the hands of circumcisers, how women continue to suffer in the guise of tradition, how they are being swindled and the misconception of FGM as a religious conjunction. The practice should not be allowed to continue under the guise of tradition or religion.
It is time to think of positive ways to motivate our wives and girl-child and also to end female genital mutilation. We should be willing to make a necessary compromise because when women are affected, men are affected, too.
The struggle of women rights activists has given the public to speak against the practice which infringes on their rights and affects their health in numerous ways. It’s a pity thousands of little girls have had, or are at risk of, genital mutilation.
The Gambia is a signatory to the MAPUTO Protocol, the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the children. Article 5 of MOPUTA Protocol, calls for prohibition through legislation measures to all forms of female genital mutilation. Section 21 of the Women’s Act 2010 specifically guarantees women the right to protection of health and safety including the safeguarding of the function of the reproductive health but there is no specific law banning the practice.
Unless we pick interest and join the struggle, the number of victims will grow.
Traffic bribes on our roads
Road safety cannot be over-emphasised. Everybody has seen what is happening, and this only requires each of us to act responsibly. Two months ago, I was on the road to Basse in the Upper River Region. This tour provided me a window into the plight of Gambians afflicted by institutional corruption within Gambian Police. It was an eye-opener worth its weight in gold. I am describing the professional preciseness a driver and a traffic police officer exhibited when exchanging money.
This scene, in broad daylight two months ago still plays out in my mind. Our car was flagged down by a traffic officer and as soon as the vehicle stopped, the driver showed him all his documents. We the passengers seated behind can grasp their discussion. We discovered that the driver has no driving permit. He, however, seemed to know this as routine as he stealthily places a note on the officer’s palm.
The officer said something about the car tyre and told the driver to drive away. Later in the vehicle, the driver lamented how traffic officers are eating into his daily income but reassured himself that it was necessary. This happened in almost all the check-points we were stopped for checking.
Such scenes have become so normal to the extent that they are no longer a question of how much you pay them. When drivers break traffic laws and are stopped by the police, they simply bribe the officers and continue on their journeys committing the same crimes. This encourages breaking of traffic laws.
It’s my humble request to the higher authorities of traffic management to immediately control those police officers who take bribes. I feel it’s their moral duty to insure the safety of people and do justice to their job. I think high-tech surveillance like auto-cameras sholud be brought and installed at check-point and speed detector cameras with photo of car plate and driver face with the over-speed crime etc may be issued. Because many a time traffic police also play corruption by harassing commuters with fake charges
By doing so, it will save the lives of those innocent people who are dying every minute in road accidents due to somebody else’s fault. I feel that law is equal for all , above all, and nobody is above law.