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Gambian Lawmakers Back Recommendations to Maintain Female Genital Mutilation Ban

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Ayize claire

Jul 9, 2024

Crucial Vote on Decriminalising Female Genital Mutilation Set for July 24

A veiled woman and young girls sit in contemplation, highlighting the deep-rooted cultural practices amidst the ongoing debate on FGM

Gambian lawmakers have supported recommendations to maintain the country's ban on female genital mutilation (FGM), ahead of a crucial vote later this month on whether to decriminalise the practice. FGM has been outlawed in Gambia since 2015, yet the practice remains prevalent. The first convictions last year for FGM spurred a backlash against the law.

Following a heated debate, a report by the joint health and gender committee was adopted by the full house, with 35 lawmakers voting in favour, 17 against, and two abstaining. The final vote on the bill to decriminalise FGM is set for July 24. If approved, Gambia would be the first country to reverse a ban on FGM. The bill passed its second reading in March with only five out of 53 lawmakers opposing it and one abstaining.

The joint committee conducted a national public consultation with various stakeholders, including religious and traditional leaders, doctors, victims, civil society groups, and circumcisers. The conclusions presented on Monday condemned all forms of FGM as a "traumatic form of torture" and "discrimination against women." Amadou Camara, the lawmaker who read out the report, stated that repealing the law would be a significant setback for the Gambia.

The first conviction for FGM last August involved three women found guilty of cutting eight infant girls, which sparked outrage. This led independent lawmaker Almaneh Gibba to table the repeal bill in March. Gibba and his supporters, including influential religious leaders, argue that the ban infringes on citizens' rights to practice their culture and religion in the Muslim-majority country.

However, many Islamic scholars dispute this claim.The World Health Organization (WHO) asserts that FGM has no health benefits and can result in severe complications such as excessive bleeding, shock, psychological issues, and even death.

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