Gambia lawmakers refer bill reversing 2015 female genital mutilation ban to national committee News
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Gambia lawmakers refer bill reversing 2015 female genital mutilation ban to national committee

Gambian lawmakers referred a bill attempting to reverse the Women’s (Amendment) Act, 2015 to the national committee for further consultation on Monday. The Women’s (Amendment) Act, 2015 bans female genital mutilation (FGM). Local activists gathered outside the National Assembly of The Gambia on Monday with protest signs to boycott the bill.

FGM is a practice that involves altering or injuring the female genitalia for non-medical reasons, which the UN claims reflects entrenched gender inequality in modern societies. According to the UN International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), over 230 million women and girls around the world are victims of female genital mutilation. In addition, 144 million victims live in Africa. Human rights organizations, including the UN, have urged countries to end FGM practices for years. The UN in Gambia also pointed out that FGM only leads to harmful and traumatic consequences. FGM may also lead to excessive bleeding, infections, complications during childbirth and increased risk of newborn deaths.

According to UN General Assembly resolution 73/149, female genital mutilation is criminalized in 26 of 29 countries in Africa where it is traditionally practiced. UN Women stated that “[s]tates should also provide systematic training for the police and the justice sector on legislation, including extraterritorial laws, that prohibit harmful practices … to ensuring that perpetrators are brought to justice.”

Deputy Speaker of National Assembly of The Gambia Seedy SK Njie confirmed on Tuesday that a final decision on the Women’s (Amendment) Act, 2015 will be made after consulting the national committee. He wrote, “For us, our position is clear: the FGM law is here to stay. [We are] committed to keeping Gambian women [and] girls safe.” Furthermore, former American politician and consultant Joe Crowley wrote that although FGM is still illegal in Gambia, “it’s very disappointing to see that overturning the nationwide ban is even on the table.”

FGM was prohibited on December 31, 2015 by former Gambian President Yahya Jammeh. He also imposed penalties of imprisonment and fines for offenders. However, Gambian women’s rights activist Jaha Dukureh expressed concern that this bill would subsequently repeal other laws that protect women’s rights.