The Vice President and Women’s Affairs Minister has branded the act of Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C), as one of the main forms of harmful traditional practices that is deeply rooted in the Gambian culture. She emphasised that the rhetoric of FGM/C has to change.
Addressing hundreds of Gambians from all regions as part of the celebration of the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting at a hotel on Friday, Dr. Aja Isatou Njie-Saidy said targeting men, traditional and religious leaders is an important factor in preventing or reducing FGM/C among women and girls.
“There is need to generate a common agreement among Islamic leaders/scholars. Evidence suggests that coalition building and advocacy are also successful strategies for working with men, religious and community leaders as they are now increasingly becoming gender sensitive,” she said.
The celebration also discussed the Women’s Amendment Act 2015 that prohibits and criminalises the practice of FGM/C in the country. As Gambia joins the rest of the world to celebrate the event, VP Njie-Saidy thanked all stakeholders for the commitment they demonstrated in the consolidated efforts leading to the enactment of the Act. “The Women’s Amendment Act 2015 is a great achievement in fulfilling The Gambia’s international and regional obligation towards the promotion and protection of the rights of women and girls.”
She thanked the Gambian leader for the executive decision to end the age-old traditional practice which, she said, affects the health and well-being of women and girls. She further remarked that the November 24 pronouncement called for the amendment of the Women’s Act 2010, and insertion in Section 32 of the Women’s Act provisions for the prohibition and criminalisation of FGM/C throughout The Gambia in order to give effect and enforce the constitutional right of women and children not to be subjected to practices that are harmful to their health and wellbeing.
According to the VP, over the past 31 years, significant progress has been registered towards the elimination of all forms of harmful traditional practices in The Gambia, saying in 1984 when the whole idea of the negative consequences of FGM/C was broached and the Women’s Bureau established a unit under its office, known as Inter African Committee, IAC, on harmful traditional practices affecting the health of women and children. “National Action Plan on Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting 2012-2017 was developed and implemented with support from UNFPA/UNICEF joint programme,” she said.
VP further told the gathering that the fight against FGM/C in The Gambia has evoked a lot of sensitivities from numerous quarters resulting to strong patriarchal resistance, but maintained that despite such daunting challenges, the gender specific nature of FGM/C motivated the gender machinery and Women’s Rights Organisations in the country to take it as a relevant and necessary development agenda.
She commended stakeholders both within and outside The Gambia for responding positively, saying as key stakeholders, their collaboration will serve as a great opportunity to pave the way for a well-coordinated effort in the dissemination and implementation of the Women’s Amendment Act 2015.
Fatou Mbaye, the Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly and Chairperson of the National Women’s Council said the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting is a United Nations awareness day to celebrate worldwide.
She said FGM/C interferes with the health issues of women and girls, saying it is a violation of a person’s right to the highest standard. She expressed gratitude to President Jammeh for ending the traditional practice in the country.
The United Nations Resident Coordinator in The Gambia, Madam Ade Mamonyane Lekoetje said FGM/C is a clear violation of human rights and a deeply rooted tradition that has been practiced for a long time. “The UN system strongly advocates the complete abandonment of the practice. Many communities have now been empowered on their rights on FGM/C.”
She said President Jammeh’s pronouncement of the end to FGM/C practice in the country and the anti-FGM/C bill are great achievements, thanking President Jammeh for banning the practice in the country, saying that was a bold step on the side of the President. She then thanked Gambian women for their untiring efforts in the campaign against FGM/C.