By Omar Bah
The National Human Rights Commission has stated that scores of girls in the country continue to undergo Female Genital Mutilation and child marriage despite the ban on both acts.
“In The Gambia, a focus on adolescent girls is not just timely but crucial. For instance, numerous rape cases, sexual abuse and other forms of gender-based violence have been reported over the course of 2020,” NHRC said in a statement on the occasion of international day of the girl child.
The commission said: “Additionally, despite the legal prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and child marriage, many girls continue to face these and other forms of discrimination, violence and exploitation in their communities. The continuous rights violations, abuse, discrimination and violence faced by adolescent girls are consistent with the United Nations (UN) findings that despite significant gains over the years, many of the commitments made to girls are left unfulfilled.”
According to reports, each year, 12 million girls under the age of 18 are married; 130 million girls out of school while approximately15 million adolescent girls aged 15-19 have experience forced sex.
“As we approach the 25th anniversary of the historic Beijing Platform and Declaration for action, NHRC calls on the government to renew its commitment to the girl child and invest constructively in their health, education, training and safety, and put an end to harmful practices that hold girls back from reaching their full potential,” the NHRC said.
The commission also recommended for the government to initiate full enforcement and implementation of the laws banning FGM and child marriage as part of its obligation to fulfil the fundamental human rights of girls, prosecute alleged perpetrators of rape, sexual harassment and sexual abuse in order to end impunity and build confidence in the justice system for many girls and their families who may be reluctant to report such cases.
“Review the Children’s Act to include ratification of laws against all forms of discrimination against girls including discrimination in education, skills development and training. Promote girls’ awareness of and participation in social, economic and political life. Strengthen the role of the family in improving the status of girls. Create safe spaces and platforms for girls at all levels of society, including in schools, through which they can articulate their concerns and aspirations.
“Make life skills education an integral part of the education curriculum, especially at the primary and secondary levels. Invest in skills training and empowerment, across all the regions of the country, for girls who have become victims of child marriage,” the commission added.