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City of Banjul
Wednesday, April 17, 2024
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FGM:The debate that refuses to go away

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The debate on the bill that seeks to unban female genital mutilation/cutting has refused to go away. Oftentimes, debates of this nature go on for a week or less and then fizzle away, but not this one it seems. There have been conferences, marches, demonstrations and a lot of lobbying National Assembly Members but it seems it will take more than that to silence the proponents and opponents of the ritual.

This emotive issue has been a hot topic in the country for the past month or more. Those who wish to repeal the law banning FGM postulate that they are trying to preserve a cultural and religious practice which has been going on for ages without any problems. They therefore see no reason why it should remain banned when the majority of the people in this country are Muslims.

Women groups and many organisations who have devoted their lives to the fight for the rights and protection of women and girls are however of the view that the ban should not be lifted as, according to them, female genital mutilation is harmful. They believe that many young women suffer a lot of trauma as a result of undergoing the practice.

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Furthermore, they argue, and there are some religious scholars who agree with them, that female genital mutilation is not an Islamic practice. It is rather a cultural practice but its proponents want to give it a religious dressing to make it easier to sell. There are many Muslim countries who have banned the practice while some countenance its practice.

Democracy being what it is however, gives every individual or group the right to hold and share their views without let or hindrance. However, whichever camp is more eloquent and have the right strategies to sell their ideas, ends up winning the debate. This is to be expected and that is what is being observed in The Gambia currently. 

One would however expect, and urge, the debaters to exercise restraint in their language. They should endeavour not to take it personally resulting in invectives and unseemly language. Whatever the case, citizens have voted for their representatives to look out for what is best for them. It is hoped that the National Assembly Members will give due diligence to their responsibilities and weigh the matter properly and come out with what is best for the country. This is why they were voted for, to look out for their people.

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If the people’s representatives see that the majority of their people want FGM banned, then let them vote for that. Those who see that most of their people wish to continue practising FGM, then let them also vote for that. That is democracy. Be it flawed or not, what the majority of the electorate wants, becomes law.

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