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NHRC tells government not to repeal anti-FGM law

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By Omar Bah

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) yesterday issued a statement expressing “grave concerns” over the introduction of a private member’s bill aimed at repealing the anti-FGM law.

NHRC stated: “The National Human Rights Commission is gravely concerned about a public notice from the Clerk of the National Assembly, published in various newspapers on 6 February, regarding the Women’s (Amendment) Bill 2024, a private member’s bill, which seeks to repeal the Women’s Act  (Amendment) 2015 that prohibits the practice of FGM/C in The Gambia.”

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The commission said it considers FGM/C “not just a health issue but a violation of the fundamental rights of women and girls, in particular the rights to life, health, bodily integrity, and protection from all forms of discrimination and violence.”

World Health Organisation, Unicef and researches conducted in The Gambia, it added, have revealed the “profound health impact” of FGM/C on women and girls.

“Thus, this proposed Women’s Act (Amendment) Bill 2024 is an attempt to roll back many years of advocacy, awareness raising and struggle by women’s rights organisations and defenders which led to the eventual legal prohibition of FGM/C in the country. “While the commission recognises that FGM/C is a complex and emotive issue and people have the right to practice their culture and religion, it is universally accepted that these rights are not absolute and cannot be invoked to violate human rights.

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“As a party to several international and regional conventions and treaties…The Gambia is obliged to safeguard the fundamental rights of women and girls from harmful traditional practices.

“The repeal of the Women’s Act (Amendment) 2015 would be a serious derogation from The Gambia’s obligations to respect, protect and fulfill the rights of women and girls,” the statement noted.

The commission said it will engage the relevant ministries with remit to protect the rights and wellbeing of women and children on the matter and that it has written to all political party leaders with representatives in the National Assembly, reiterated their duty to advance the rights of women and girls and solicited their support to ensure that their representatives do not vote for the Women’s Act (Amendment) Bill 2024.

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