Friday 08 March 2024

An independent parliamentarian recently tabled a bill to lift the ban on excision.

The practice had been outlawed in this predominantly Muslim country in 2015 when Yahya Jammeh was still president.

Parliamentarian Almameh Gibba introduced the bill on first reading this Monday, March 04, 2024.

The examination was postponed to a second reading scheduled for March 18. The man says that female circumcision is not a necessity in Islam, although influential Muslim clerics are lobbying for the ban to be lifted.

While women’s rights activists promise to campaign for its retention.

The head of the Gambia Association of Women Lawyers, Anna Njie, said repealing the ban would be a step backwards.

“We don’t have the power to tell the National Assembly what to do, but we do have rights reserved in the constitution to sue when certain fundamental rights are violated,” she said.

The leader of the majority party in Parliament, Billay Tunkara, said he had not yet decided to support the bill. “We’re taking our time because it’s a very sensitive area that has not only to do with religion or the cultural aspect, but also human rights and health issues,” he said.

More than three-quarters (over 75%) of Gambian women aged between 15 and 49 have undergone genital mutilation, according to the UN.

UN calls on Gambia not to relegate excision to the past

A bill in the Gambian parliament aims to repeal the law amending the law that has banned female genital mutilation since 2015. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva is calling for the bill to be withdrawn.

The UN has called on Gambia’s elected representatives to “swiftly withdraw” a bill lifting the ban on female genital mutilation, which is “an abhorrent violation of human rights”.

“We are alarmed by the tabling of a bill in the Gambian parliament to repeal the 2015 Women’s Amendment Act, which bans female genital mutilation,” said a spokesperson for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner, interviewed by AFP.

Second reading on March 18

“Such mutilation is an abhorrent violation of human rights and causes permanent physical and mental harm to women and girls,” he stressed.

For the Office of the High Commissioner, “it is crucial that Gambia maintain the gains it has made in combating this harmful practice and continue to promote a society that protects the rights and dignity of all, especially women and girls”.

On Monday, the Gambian National Assembly began examining the bill denounced by the UN. A second reading of the text is scheduled for March 18, and its prospects for adoption and application are uncertain.

The possibility of a return to the legalization of female genital mutilation, including excision, has been dividing Gambian opinion for months, with traditionalists and many civil society organizations urging the government to stand firm.

In a report published in 2021, Unicef indicated that 76% of Gambian women aged 15 to 49 had undergone genital mutilation, and 75% of Gambian women aged 15 to 19.

Over 230 million survivors of genital mutilation worldwide, according to Unicef

More than 230 million girls and women alive today around the world have undergone genital mutilation, a figure up 15% since the previous estimate in 2016, according to a Unicef report published this Thursday, March 07, 2024

Africa is the continent most affected, with over 144 million survivors of female genital mutilation, ahead of Asia (80 million) and the Middle East (six million), says the report, which focuses on 31 countries where the practice is common.


Sources : Africanews/AFP


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