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The Gambia’s Parliament Considers Lifting Ban on FGM

Since March 4, 2024, Gambian MPs have been engaged in discussions surrounding the proposed bill. Proponents of lifting the ban, including Gambian Imam Abdoullie Fatty, assert that FGM is a religiously permissible practice and call for national mobilization to defend it.

The Gambian Parliament is currently deliberating on a bill to lift the ban on female genital mutilation (FGM), sparking a contentious debate within the country. Advocates for the repeal argue that criminalizing the practice infringes upon cultural and religious freedoms, while opponents stress the serious health risks associated with FGM.

Since March 4, 2024, Gambian MPs have been engaged in discussions surrounding the proposed bill. Proponents of lifting the ban, including Gambian Imam Abdoullie Fatty, assert that FGM is a religiously permissible practice and call for national mobilization to defend it.

“The Gambian constitution should take precedence over any other law or protocol,” Imam Fatty contends. “We cannot allow the arrest and imprisonment of individuals practicing their religious and cultural beliefs. Repealing the law is essential for peace to prevail in The Gambia.”

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Conversely, opponents argue that FGM violates citizens’ rights to health and well-being. The World Health Organization highlights the severe medical risks associated with the practice, including hemorrhage, infection, HIV transmission, and urinary retention.

“FGM has no beneficial effects on health,” asserts lawyer Babading Daffeh. “Its immediate consequences include physical injuries, pain, and bleeding, which can escalate to life-threatening conditions if not treated promptly and in sterile conditions.”

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The ban on FGM was initially imposed in 2015 by former president Yahya Jammeh, who also implemented stringent penalties for offenders. Gambia’s commitment to combating FGM was further solidified through its endorsement of the Maputo Protocol, ratified in 2005.

As the Gambian Parliament prepares for a second review of the bill to decriminalize FGM on March 18, 2024, the nation remains deeply divided on the issue, with profound implications for women’s rights and public health.

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