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UN expresses concern over attempts to reverse anti-FGM law

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By Olimatou Coker

The United Nations in The Gambia says it has taken note of recent calls to reverse the anti-FGM law which is “recognised as an infringement on the fundamental human rights of girls and women” and called on the government, civil society, religious and traditional leaders to dialogue on a shared vision that prioritise the wellbeing of girls and women.

A tense debate erupted over the matter recently when three women were convicted for FGM which annoyed Islamic religious leaders and pressured Parliamentarians to call for the law to be repealed.

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But according to the UN, any attempts to repeal the anti-FGM law would roll back progress made by The Gambia towards protecting girls and women from harmful practices and would undermine the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5, which aims for the global eradication of the practice by 2030.

The UN also said medical evidence consistently confirms the detrimental effects of FGM on the physical and psychological health of women and girls, with the 2020 Gambia Demographic and Health Survey revealing a troubling statistic that 73 per cent of women between 15 and 49 have undergone FGM, with an alarming 65 percent being subjected to it before the age of 5.

“The landmark decision by The Gambia in 2015, through the Women’s Amendment Act, to criminalise FGM showcased the country’s unwavering commitment to protecting the rights of women and girls. This dedication is in line with The Gambia’s obligations under international conventions it ratified, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child and more. Since the criminalisation, commendable progress has been made in protecting girls and women from harmful practices, ensuring that they realise their rights and potential in terms of health, education, income, and equality. As we commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on 10 December 2023, it is essential to remember the commitment to safeguarding the rights of everyone, especially girls and women,”the UN said in a statement. The UN in The Gambia reiterates the Secretary-General’s call, highlighting that all men and boys, in their capacities as brothers, fathers, health workers, teachers, and traditional and religious leaders, can actively advocate against FGM.

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It further reaffirms its commitment and determination to support the country’s efforts to create an environment where the rights and dignity of every girl and woman are upheld. “We will continue to stand with women and girls, especially those who are survivors, supporting their leadership and engagement in the fight to end FGM,” the UN said.

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