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Gambia’s Parliament Supports Recommendations To Keep Female Genital Mutilation Banned

Gambia's Flag.

Gambian lawmakers on Monday supported recommendations to keep the country’s ban on female genital mutilation (FGM).

On July 25, the lawmakers will make a final vote on whether to decriminalise FGM. If passed by the lawmakers, Gambia would be the first country to reverse an FGM ban.

After a serious debate in the parliament on Monday, the recommendations in the joint health and gender committee’s report was adopted. Thirty-five lawmakers voted in favour of the recommendations, 17 against, and two abstained.

The bill passed its second reading in March with only five (out of 53) lawmakers in the parliament opposing and one, abstaining.

Following the second reading, the joint committee held a national consultation with various stakeholders, including religious and traditional leaders, doctors, victims, civil society groups, and circumcisers. The committee’s report described FGM as a “traumatic form of torture” and “discrimination against women.”

FGM has been illegal in Gambia since 2015, but the practice is still common in the West African country. August last year, the first convictions under the ban led to a backlash against the law.

The first FGM convictions involved three women found guilty of cutting eight infant girls. The conviction sparked anger among the public. As a result, independent lawmaker, Almaneh Gibba, proposed to annul the FGM ban bill in March.

Gibba and his supporters, including influential religious leaders, argued that the ban violates Gambian’s rights to practice their culture and religion in the predominantly Muslim country.

According to the World Health Organisation, female circumcision is internationally considered a violation of the human rights of girls and women.

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