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GAMBIA: AFTER CALLS FOR REPEAL OF THE ANTI-FGM LAW, GAMCOTRAP STAKEHOLDERS DISCUSS THE ISSUE

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Following requests by certain religious leaders and members of the National Assembly to repeal the law, senior staff of the Gambia Committee on Traditional Practices (GAMCOTRAP) and stakeholders began an engagement on Thursday on the proper execution of the anti-FGM legislation.

In The Gambia, female genital mutilation (FGM) is illegal under the law. The two-day policy debate allowed stakeholders to address the necessity of following the law in order to safeguard girls. It is also one of the group’s strategic aims to punish those who cut the females.

The consultative session in Kololi brought together diplomats from the United Nations and the European Union, representatives of human rights organizations (HROs), government officials, lawyers, National Assembly Members (NAMs), district chiefs, council of elders, ex-circumcisers, and members of civil society organizations (CSOs).
This effort, supported by Equality Now, is in reaction to recent attempts by certain members of the National Assembly to abolish the legislation against FGM, especially in light of a recent court verdict that found two women and the circumciser guilty of violating the law.

A few months ago, the topic of repealing the FGM legislation was a hot topic in the nation, with politicians, religious leaders, advocacy groups, and other non-governmental organizations (NGOs) engaging in a verbal brawl over the practice.

GAMCORAP and its main partners said that they would continue to fight to guarantee that children are legally protected from these destructive practices and all types of abuse against them.

According to Dr. IsatouTouray, Executive Director of GAMCOTRAP, the legislation prohibiting FGM is a beacon of hope, blazing the road to a future in which every female child may grow up free from the shadows of dread and suffering. She went on to say that it is a vow to protect the female child, not merely law. She said that upholding this rule is their collective pledge to the female child and an assertion that her rights are unalienable, her dignity is untouchable, and her destiny is infinite.

“However, we are acutely aware of the challenges that await us.” Tradition, which is firmly embedded in the social fabric, often resists change. Overcoming these deeply ingrained attitudes requires not just legal measures, but also a broad society shift. It necessitates open discourse, knowledge, and compassion,” Dr. Toruy said.

She added that in order to achieve, “we must take a multifaceted approach.” Our most essential channel for behavioral change and growth is education, both formal and informal. Parents, community leaders, and young people must be educated about the medical and psychological consequences of FGM. This has occurred throughout time, prompting the populace to push for the passage of legislation. Knowledge is our most powerful tool for eliminating falsehoods and encouraging understanding. The Law was created by the power of knowledge. This event is about respecting the legislation in order to protect girls from FGM.”

“We must encourage them to use their platforms to challenge harmful practices and advocate for our girls’ well-being.” Each of us has a role to play in the path of enlightenment. Together, we can amplify our voices and efforts, ensuring that the message of empowerment and protection reaches every corner of our country, reaching out to various target groups and offering them pathways to healing and advocacy for victims, while ensuring that no girl-child is ever cut again,” said the advocacy leader.

Dr. Touray went on to praise all of their partners for their tireless work to promote the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women, girls, and people with disabilities. She expressed gratitude to Equality Now for financing the event.

Musa Camara, the regional health director, speaks on behalf of the health minister, urging the preservation and promotion of women’s and girls’ sexual and reproductive health rights for enhanced health and well-being.

He described the health consequences of FGM, which include, but are not limited to, blood loss owing to severe bleeding, postpartum hemorrhage, infections (from contaminated tools used by practitioners), and difficulties during childbirth with an increased risk of new-born fatalities.

“The above health risks of FGM, as well as many others not mentioned, have a direct impact on the health and wellbeing of women and girls, resulting in low productivity and a negative impact on an already stretched economy,” Camara said.

Neneh Touray, deputy director for the Directorate of Gender Equality and Women Empowerment, also spoke on behalf of the minister for women, saying that it is critical to mobilize communities, particularly in areas where FGM is prevalent, and to use participatory governance structures to adopt and implement laws.

While addressing the community, she urged traditional and religious leaders, parents, and all others to record and monitor occurrences of FGM and to abstain from all forms of FGM. He noted that approach guarantees that communities are responsive and that girls and women’s interests are included into action at this level.

A board member spoke on behalf of GAMCOTRAP Chair, OusmanTouray, and said that FGM is a deeply ingrained custom. He went on to say that they came together to reaffirm their commitment to protecting girls and ensuring their safety, health, and dignity.

“The Gambia’s FGM law is a significant step forward, reflecting our collective determination to put an end to this harmful practice.” As a result, respecting this rule is more than just a legal commitment and a moral necessity; it is about recognizing our children’s basic human rights and helping them to grow up free of the physical and emotional scars of FGM,” NenehTouray said.

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