By Arret Jatta
During the Ninth National Youth Parliament Session at the National Assembly, the majority of the members of the National Youth Parliament supported the continued implementation of the Female Genital Mutilation/C (FGM) Ban. FGM/C is a practice where mostly young girls have their clitoris or other vaginal parts cut and in some cases sealed.
Currently, FGM/C is a banned practice with sections 32A and 32B of the Women’s Act prescribing a punishment of three (3) years imprisonment or a fine of fifty thousand Dalasis (D50,000) or both, for engaging in the practice of FGM or being an accomplice of it, respectively.
Advocates have called for stiffer fines for persons found wanting after a judge found three women guilty of the act and fined them D15,000 each without any jail time. Since then popular Islamic Scholar Imam Fatty has bailed their fines and been at loggerheads with Women’s Rights Advocates.
Young representatives from across the country converged to discuss issues affecting young Gambians earlier this week from 30th to 31st October 2023. One of the burning issues in the country which was sparked after a Parliamentary session of the Sixth Legislature of The Gambia was the issue of FGM/C.
In reaction to the matter of the day tabled by Hon Sulayman Saho, the National Human Rights Commission and the Supreme Islamic Council have both issued statements on the issue, however, the Government’s responsible institutions have remained silent on the matter.
“FGM is Just a Culture and Culture is a Mindset that can be Changed”
The representative for Jeshwang Hon. Fatoumata Daffeh submitted that Female Genital Mutilation /Cut (FGM/C) is just a cultural practice which can be changed. “FGM is just a culture and culture is a mindset that can be changed. It has no good effect and this inhumane treatment should stop. FGM has no good effects” said Hon Daffeh.
Now, young people have started speaking up against plans by the National Assembly to repeal the FGM Ban. Even the African Women and Children Rights International Community have chimed in to release a statement on the matter.
“Women are undergoing violation. It’s said FGM is a sunnah but I believe none of the prophet’s daughters has undergone FGM, I want to believe the practice is in no way a Sunnah. I think FGM is bad and a no-go area. The issue of FGM is not a religious belief” said the Member for Lower Fulladu West Hon Alpha Yaya.
The youth representative for Serrekunda, Hon Abdou Bah opined that Islam doesn’t support anything that is harmful to people, he said “If the women that are going through FGM said it’s bad then it’s bad and it should stop”.
However, Member for Brikama Hon Gazali Kambi believes otherwise when he stated that FGM is compulsory in Islam, “It’s always important for one to have knowledge before speaking. In Islam, the issue of women circumcising or female genital mutilations is compulsory and mandatory”.
“People are spending their energy on things that have no relevance. We are religious people, we should stay by religion, we shouldn’t allow anyone to influence” he stated.
However, the Deputy Speaker Hon Ndegen Jobe enthused that “since 2017, as a country, we have not only demoralised women, but we have violated their rights. Is disheartening for people that do not have vaginas or clitoris to talk about issues that affect women. We are disappointed as young women of this country”.
Member for Sabach Sanjal Hon. Bukary Gaye submitted that women’s and girls’ lives matter and urged the house to shift their attention to consider the dangers of FGM instead of promoting its decriminalisation.
“Looking at our generation, you will believe that men have no empathy for women. We should advocate for the ending of FGM, all of us here today when we go back to our constituency, we should make sure we advocate for the ending of FGM” she said.
Unlike National Assembly Members of the Sixth Legislature, who have signalled their intention to decriminalise the Act of FGM/C most members of the National Youth Parliament FGM/C want the FGM/C ban to stay for good.