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FGM persists despite ban

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The recently released national Demographic and Health Survey has revealed that 73 percent of women age 15 to 49 are circumcised despite laws prohibiting the practice.

Section 32A and 32A of the Women’s (Amendment) Act 2015 criminalize and set out punishments for performing, procuring, and aiding and abetting the practice of FGM.

According to the survey, the most common type of FGM in The Gambia is type 2 (some flesh removed), with 73% of circumcised women undergoing this procedure. Seventeen percent of women underwent a type 3 (also known as infibulations). Only one percent of women underwent a type one procedure (clitoris nicked, no flesh removed).

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The prevalence of FGM in The Gambia has decreased only slightly since 2013, from 75% to 73%.

FGM is performed throughout childhood. Nearly two-thirds of circumcised women (65%) reported that they were circumcised when they were younger than age five, while 18% were circumcised age 5-9, 6% at 10-14, and 1% at age 15 or older.

Attitudes towards FGM

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Women and men age 15-49 who have heard of female circumcision were asked whether the practice is a requirement of their religion. Only about one-third of women (34%) and men (31%) believe that it is not a religious requirement. Less than half of women (46%) and men (42%) believe FGM should not continue.

Justifications for continuing or ending FGM

Among women and men age 15-49 who agreed that FGM should be continued, the most common justifications given were religious obligation (59% and 63% respectively) and traditional, culture (45% and 34% respectively). However, more men than women cited reduced promiscuity as justification (25% and 11% respectively).

Among women and men who agreed that FGM should be ending, the most common justification given was that the practice is harmful [45% and 43% respectively], thirty-six percent of women cited the fact that it complicates delivery, while 29% of men cited negative health effects. Twenty-four percent of women and 17% of men said that FGM should be ended because it leads to painful or unsatisfying sex.

According to the survey, 89% of women and 65% of men who have heard of FGM are aware that it is illegal.

The survey was conducted to highlight the trends in Gambia’s health sector. The launching of the report was attended by the Vice President of The Gambia, Isatou Touray, the Deputy Mission Director of the Dakar-based USAid, Dr Zeric Smith, the Minister of Health, Dr Ahmadou Samateh, and officials of The Gambia Bureau of Statistics.

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