Press release: ‘Engaging religious leaders towards ending FGM

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has been dominated by misconceptions about FGM and religion resulting to communities subjecting their children to FGM. However, over the years through awareness creation 900 communities and 128 circumcisers have been empowered to protect girls from this harmful traditional practice which affects the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and girls as well as undermines the dignity of women. FGM is a violation of human rights and a form of violence against women and girl children. 
The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) called on states parties to eliminate harmful traditional practices, and the African Union Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa explicitly calls on states to prohibit and condemn FGM through awareness creation and enacting of law in order to eliminate the practice. The Gambia has ratified these treaties over the years, members of relevant ministries, parliamentarians and civil society actors have dedicated attention to discussions on measures to be undertaken to fulfill these obligations. The advocacy and social mobilisation of the population has been very effective and we are seeing phenomenal changes in perceptions and families protecting their children.
Effective national legislation is a vital component of efforts to accelerate the elimination of FGM. The enactment and implementation of legislation against FGM demonstrates a formal, explicit and lasting commitment by public authorities to turning the tide of social norms that perpetuate the practice and are detrimental to women and girls.  Furthermore, the law can also provide the legal tools to legitimize and facilitate the work of anti-FGM activists and women’s rights groups, and to protect women and girls willing to challenge the social convention by refusing to undergo FGM.  Conversely, an absence of legislation contributes to the perception of FGM as “acceptable” and further exposes girls and women to the high risk of FGM weakens the legitimacy and impact of government’s policies.
It is observed that achieving substantive equality for the girl-child and creating a protective environment with regards to certain HTPs are shrouded in religious misconceptions making the debate difficult for anti-FGM advocates. FGM has been wrongly associated with Islam in The Gambia and this misconception is strongly held by some religious scholars who have used their privileged positions to influence the debate negatively and sending the wrong signals that undermines government efforts. The legislators hide behind these misconceptions reneging on their constitutional responsibility to women in The Gambia. In the light of the great progress registered over the years it is always a suggestion from communities that Gamcotrap should invite other Muslim countries to share their knowledge on FGM and Islam.

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