A Statement by The United Nations in The Gambia on Protecting the Rights of Girls and Women from Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)

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The United Nations in The Gambia takes note of the recent calls to reverse the legislation prohibiting Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). Recognised as an infringement on the fundamental human rights of girls and women, medical evidence consistently confirms the detrimental effects of FGM on their physical and psychological health.

The 2020 Gambia Demographic and Health Survey reveals a troubling statistic: Up to 73 per cent of Gambian women between 15 and 49 have undergone FGM, with an alarming 65 per cent being subjected to it before the age of five years.

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. Rolling back such progress would be a setback and undermine Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5, aiming for the global eradication of FGM by 2030.

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.

On this year’s International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (6 February 2023), UN Secretary-General António Guterres emphasised men’s and boys’ crucial role in this fight. 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.

We urge national authorities, civil society groups, and traditional and religious leaders to foster a national dialogue towards a shared vision that prioritises the well-being of all girls and women in The Gambia.

The UN in The Gambia reaffirms its commitment and determination to support the nation’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.

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