Deputies Schedule FGM/C Bill for Second Reading Amidst Heated Debate

National Assembly (NA)

By Alieu Ceesay

In a riveting clash of perspectives, advocates and opponents of Female Genital Mutilation/Circumcision (FGM/C) convened at the National Assembly for the impending second reading of the FGM/C Bill on Monday 4th, March 2024.

Leading the Islamic groups, esteemed scholar Imam Abdullah Fatty joined lawmakers at the Assembly alongside other Muslim religious leaders who came to assert their stance on the matter.

Outside the parliament, men, women, boys, and girls from Islamic groups advocating the repeal displayed banners in solidarity, aiming to amend the FGM/C law, which was banned in The Gambia by former President Yahya Jammeh.

Simultaneously, women advocates passionately represented the opposing side within the parliamentary chamber. The atmosphere was charged as the National Assembly Member for Foni Kansala presented the Women Amendment Bill, seeking to overturn the ban on the practice of FGM/C.

Abdullah Fatty expressed joy for the bill’s repeal, stating that FGM is not prohibited in Islam. Fatty argued, saying, “The Prophet Muhammad, Peace be upon him, has taught how to do it, and people practiced it in his presence, and he did not deny it; he never disallowed it. Who are they (the opponents of Female Genital Mutilation) to say today is ‘haram’? Why?”

Despite varying opinions among Islamic scholars in The Gambia, Almameh Gibba of Foni Kansala sought the repeal of the 2015 bill that initially banned the practice of FGM/C.

As a senior Female Lawyers Association Gambia (FLAG) member, Anna Njie expressed disappointment with Honorable Gibba’s move to table the bill. She emphasized that the fight against FGM/C isn’t a fight against the Islamic religion. She stressed FLAG’s commitment to safeguarding the rights of girls and women.

“It’s disappointing for us as an organization; we hope this bill won’t pass.”
Supporters of FGM/C, like Abubacarr Bayo, argued that the opposition to FGM/C is a form of religious discrimination towards Muslims. He stated, “It’s our right to practice as our religion directs us, so why would they stop us from practicing our religion.”

Fatima Jarju, a female activist and FGM/C survivor, warned that if the bill passes, it will negatively impact the well-being of girls in the country. She asserted, “I assure you that if this bill is passed, it’s going to affect the rights of girls, and it’s also going to affect this country, not just about the women and girls but also looking at the human rights status of this country.”

The bill is scheduled for its second reading on 18th March 2024.

Vice President Muhammad BS Jallow presented the National Social Protection Bill, the Gambia Legal Metrology Bill, and the Nutrition Bill in a separate development. Ebrima Sillah, Minister of Transport, Works, and Infrastructure, stepped in for Babucarr Ousmaila Joof, Minister for Trade, Industry, Regional Integration, and Employment, to table the Cybercrime Bill for its first reading. The second reading of these bills is scheduled for 12th and 18th March 2024, respectively, where members will debate the merits and principles of the bills.

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