The recently released Demographic and Health Survey has revealed that women’s health has improved in The Gambia. The survey, meant to collect and disseminate health and population data, found that more women are now using family planning and accessing health care during pregnancy and delivery in the country.
That’s some positive news, considering some women were having babies on horse carts on the way to the hospital or at homes where appropriate midwifery is missing. However, that good news is only for delivery and family planning. Don’t get us wrong, it is still significant but the other aspects of women’s development remain bleak as female genital mutilation, sexual violence and battery have persisted. FGM continues unabated with more young girls getting cut even though the practice was banned in the country since 2015 and a law enacted to that effect.
Admittedly female genital mutilation or female circumcision as we call it has been around for millennia, and realistically, no one expects that a culture so deeply rooted could be eradicated with a wave of a pen. However, the government could do way more to enforce the ban as it is almost universally accepted that the practice is a gross violation of the health and sexual rights of young girls.
While we talk about the violations of rights, we can also look at the health implications as women affected by the practice are 70 percent more likely to suffer haemorrhage after delivery. What’s baffling is that we are discussing the rights of women in the 21st century. Should it even be a topic of discussion in 2021? The laws are there, why are they not being enforced? If the government is serious about the well-being of women’s health and rights, the laws should be enforced and there will be a major change by now and the numbers would have significantly dropped.
So, the question is are we serious about maternal deaths? If we are, we would not have over 70 percent of women circumcised in this country because it is one of the causes of maternal deaths. But it is still not too late and there is much to do. Women’s health cannot be improved if there are dangerous practices that harm them. We must do better.
One would have expected that with the best known anti-FGM campaigner serving as the vice president of the country, the practice would have received greater attention and more resources dedicated to eradicating it.