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NAM says no rhetoric will frustrate efforts to repeal FGM law

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By Omar Bah

The National Assembly Member for Fôni Kansala, Almameh Gibba, has vowed to continue the fight to ensure the law banning female genital mutilation is decriminalised. In February, Mr. Gibba introduced the Women’s Amendment Bill 2024, intended to decriminalise FGM. The bill has passed a second reading and is currently under consultation before its third and final reading.

The National Assembly passed the anti-FGM law in 2015, a month after former president Yahya Jammeh announced banning it, with up to three years imprisonment as a penalty.

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 However, there have been growing calls for the law to be scrapped, with prominent Islamic leader Abdoulie Fatty leading the crusade. On Tuesday, The Standard published a statement from the Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation expressing its overwhelming support for the elimination of female genital mutilation (FGM).

Reacting to The Standard publication, Gibba said: “It is unfortunate that people who portray themselves as Muslims and Christians are influenced by the West to frustrate practices that are recommended by religion and culture.”

He said as the custodian of the bill, he will continue to do everything humanly possible to ensure that the law is repealed. Gibba urged Gambian activists to stop portraying female circumcision as female genital mutilation. “The bill I tabled at the National Assembly is seeking to decriminalise female circumcision and not FGM because FGM is not practiced in The Gambia. I will continue to mobilise efforts and support from all and sundry who respect our religious laws and cultural beliefs,” he said.

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Gibba added that women and human rights activists should focus on addressing issues such as maternal mortality which is rising in The Gambia.

“Just last year, we lost 52 women while giving birth, and none of these cases is associated with FGM. What is stopping our activists from talking about things? Why do they just focus on FGM? Can’t we put pressure on the government to address the issues in our health sector that are killing our women during birth?” Gibba noted.

He said female circumcision is accepted in many countries that have realised its benefits.

“We are calling on all Gambians to rally together and ensure that the law is decriminalized. Even Gambian doctors are saying there is no harm in female circumcision,” he added.

The NAM argued that the West should stop interfering with the country’s internal affairs, especially those that have to do with culture and religion.

“The majority of Gambians are practicing female circumcision, and I want to assure Gambians that I am more committed now than before to making sure the law is repealed. My conviction is that our laws should be considerate of the religious and cultural needs of our people,” he said.

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