The NA Joint Committee Recommends Upholding the FGM Ban in The Gambia

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National Assembly Chambers

By: Alieu Ceesay

National Assembly Joint  Committee, in its report, has recommended a continued ban on the practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in The Gambia. This declaration puts the most controversial Women Amendment Bill 2024 at risk of surviving.

This recommendation came weeks after President Adama Barrow’s State of Nation Address 2024 (SoNA), where he emphatically asserted his government’s unwavering commitment to enforcing the prohibition of FGM law in The Gambia.

Accordingly, the recommendation was reached in consideration of several important things, including international, regional, and other statutory laws that The Gambia ratified and is a signatory to, such as the Conventions on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in April 1993, the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (BDPA) 1995, the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in August 1990, the African Charter on the Rights and Welf (ACRWC), the African Union Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa (SDGEA), the Maputo Protocol in May 2005. Also, the Gambia enacted the Women’s Act in 2010 and, subsequently, the Women’s (Amendment) Act in 2015 – which outlaws the FGM.

Meanwhile, it states that due to the democratic nature of the country coupled with its continued efforts to promote the rights of women and girls, the FGM Law should not be repealed.

It could be recalled that thirty (30) National Assembly members recently flew to Egypt for a study tour aimed at deepening their knowledge and understanding of the controversy surrounding the FGM debate in the country.

Amadou Camara, National Assembly member for the Nianja constituency, stated that the Women’s Amendment Bill is against the rights and health of women and girls in The country, saying the committee has engaged relevant stakeholders, including experts and victims of FGM, all of whom have emphasized its ban.

“Some of the witnesses interpreted the legality of female circumcision within Islamic guidelines but condemned the harmful practices associated with it and advocated for a balanced approach that respects religious beliefs while safeguarding women’s well-being,” Nianja NAM explained.

Hon. Camara of Nianja, who also doubles as the Chairperson of the joint Committee, stated that “some circumcisers told his Committee that FGM/C is used as a means of gaining revenue for sustenance. Due to this monetary gain, circumcisers are reluctant to abandon the practice.”

It is the Joint Committee’s view that an individual economic gain must not supersede or overrule the harmful effects of the practice on the girl child.

In spite of all these arguments, the Joint Committee also believes that cultural or traditional practices should not impinge on the rights and freedoms of others, especially their health rights.

The committee recommends that girls and women who are at risk or have undergone FGM/C should have access to legal support and protection. This includes access to shelters, counseling, and other support services.

 “Government should enforce the law as well as issue clear policy directives prohibiting FGM/C and provide continued legal protections for girls and women at risk,” the committee states in its report.

Furthermore, the committee recommends that comprehensive public awareness campaigns and educational programs should be implemented to raise awareness about the harmful effects of FGM/C and promote gender equality and women’s rights across the board.

As the committee recommends the ban of the bill, pro-FGM advocates are with the belief that the NAMs are on the right track for simply not repealing the law protecting women and girls.

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