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UDP to hold emergency meeting on FGM Friday

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By Alagie Manneh

The United Democratic Party will Friday hold an emergency meeting to state its position on the charged debate surrounding the issue of FGM, according to its spokesperson, Almamy Taal.

A 2015 Act of Parliament banned the aged-old practice but following the recent conviction of three women for FGM, the issue emerged as a hot topic with religious leaders and even National Assembly Members calling for the repealing of the law.

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The UDP has supported the legislation proscribing the practice since its passing in 2015.

However, according to Mr Taal, events and debates of the past few days and weeks surrounding the issue have forced them to hold another consultation on the matter with a view to making their position clear and distinct.

But he also said that there was no proactive effort on the part of the party to have a repeal of the law banning FGM.

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“In other words, we will probably come out with a very clear statement after our emergency meeting on Friday”, he told The Standard yesterday.

He said what actually prompted the meeting was a parliamentary process during which a member of the party declared his constituent’s support for the practice of FGM.

“We have a very unusual situation where a member of parliament under the whip of our party, raised this issue on a procedure that is known to the Assembly as the ‘order of the day’. As a parliamentarian, he is representing his constituency, and obviously, on the floor of the Assembly, he can speak for them, but as far as the party is concerned, we are going to look at all the factors and all the circumstances around this issue and come out with a clear position,” Taal said.

For the UDP, he added, it is not a question of not belonging to any camp. “I’m just saying that events have happened in the past few days that require consultation within the party, and we will come out to the media and say where we stand on this issue now,” he said.

Personal opinion

On a personal note, Mr Taal posited that FGM should be criminalised, describing it as a “barbaric practice”.

“Personally, I think there should be even more stringent conditions for anybody that is found to be guilty of this very, very barbaric practice. I am completely against FGM and any act of violence or discrimination that is perpetrated against women.”

He called it a ‘violation of children’ who don’t have the choice to make such decisions on their own.

When asked why people seemingly don’t want to give up FGM even where many religious leaders have said that the practice is not Islamic, Mr Taal, a former high court judge replied: “I really don’t think there is any basis in any Islamic teaching for this practice. This goes back to an era called the ‘Jahiliyya’ period, which preceded Islam, and Islam came to rectify a lot of the misconceptions. Because in Arabia of the Jahiliyya period, or the age of ignorance, even female children were buried as soon as they were born because of the belief that the female children are going to be a burden on the family and things like that. So, the coming of Islam is the salvation, if you like, especially amongst the Arabs of that time.”     

He remarked that as a secular republic, any violence, especially if targeted towards children, “must be condemned in the strongest possible term”.

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