The inconvenient topic of the practice of female genital mutilation in The Gambia has reared its ugly head again and as usual, government’s indecision over the matter will fan the flames into full blown fireball soon.
Last week, in this very medium it was reported that Unicef and other international stakeholders have expressed concern about the prevalence of the FGM in the country despite its banning many years ago. Their observations are not misplaced. Since the coming into power of the new government it has been observed in many places that this deep-seated dangerous cultural practice is still going on.
In fact whereas the practice was widely curtailed and less visible during the Jammeh regime, which banned it, violators of the ban are now getting bolder and the voices of its promoters louder. As recent as last week a prominent imam made it a topic of his Friday sermon condemning the banning of FGM apparently in response to recent calls against its resurfacing. Yes FGM is entrenched in the traditional values, beliefs and cultures of our society, but it has been the subject of health warnings globally because of its potential to cause dangerous health conditions to women.
For many years and for political reasons Gambian authorities shied away from tackling the issue head on leaving the campaign against it to activists who are often to and attacked by religious and traditional leaders.
Ironically, it is the government that gave commitment by signing or agreeing to international conventions against FGM. But for decades now, successive governments have not been able or willing to effectively enforce the ban through arrests or prosecutions. It is only in very serious cases, example death or severe injuries to victims, that police get involved or public alarmed.
Majority of cases go unreported mainly with the complicity of parents or relatives who are still ignorant about its consequences on the health of the womenfolk.
It is however hope that with the coming into government of prominent anti- FGM activists including the current vice president, the campaign against FGM and enforcement of the ban would be more aggressive. This has not been the case even though last week, on February 6, the International Zero Tolerance Day for FGM the vice president, a sworn anti-FGM activist herself called for collective efforts at protecting girls against the harmful practice. This is not enough. In the past, the vice president had made a name for standing firmly against this practice. She must not now abandon or soften her position on the matter for political reasons. Rather she should use her influence to even more effectively fight against this menace.