By Momodou Jawo
Binta Jammeh-Sidibeh, the executive director of Women’s Bureau has said that Gambia and Senegal need to unite and work together in ensuring that the deep-rooted traditional practice Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) is eliminated.
“Security apparatuses within the borders villages of the two countries need to work together to strengthen their mutual understanding and be very vigilant. People are now in the habit of smuggling their children to border villages of Gambia or Senegal for them to be circumcised,” she noted.
The Supreme Islamic Council (SIC), she added, must help to end the menace. “They should come out and tell Gambians that FGM/C is not a religious belief. If you see still now we cannot halt the menace in the country is the fact that some people still believe that it is religious,” Mrs. Sidibeh stated.
She made this remark in Sotuma Samba Koi village in the Jimara District of the Upper River Region (URR) during a cross-border meeting between Gambia and Senegal. The one-day convergence was organised by Women’s Bureau with support from UNICEF.
“I just want to emphatically make it clear, the law on FGM/C still exists. In fact we are going to strengthen them, thus whoever is found doing the act will face the full force of the law,” she warned.
There are other tribes in the country, she explained, that do not undergo FGM/C but still they are Muslims. She thus urged health personnel of the two countries to help in the fight, adding that her office is working tirelessly in ensuring that the practice is halted in the country.
“Sometimes you will realise that a particular child will undergo FGM/C in The Gambia, but due to her condition she will be taken to a Senegalese hospital for treatment, therefore health personnel of the two countries should report such kind of incidents to the relevant authorities,” Binta Jammeh urged.
Ousman Baldeh and Ousainatou Sidibeh both from Madina Yerro Fula of Senegal underscored the significance of the forum.
“If we want to succeed in fighting FGM/C we have to do away with culture of silence ‘Maslaha’ syndrome and report perpetrators to the relevant authorities,” Mrs. Sidibeh noted.
She acknowledged the fact eliminating the menace completely in our societies may not be easy, however, with more cross-border meetings it will be drastically reduced.
Madi Trawally, a detective at the Basse Police Station said as far as cross-border issue is concerned, the securities of the two countries play a crucial role in arresting the menace. “We have to establish a joint security team between the two countries that will be looking at people that are smuggling their children to be cut,” Trawally stated.