Gambian parliamentarians criminalise the practice of female circumcision otherwise called female genital mutilation (FGM) after passing a bill that imposes three year prison term on anyone that flouts the Women’s Amendment Act 2015. It also levies a fine of $1,300 on anyone caught practising or involved in the organisation of female genital cutting.
The bill now awaits President Jammeh to append his signature on it.
The late Monday night ban, packaged into the Criminal Code, was supported by a large majority of the ruling APRC lawmakers. The Vice-President Isatou Njie Saidy introduced the bill, telling deputies the new law would “enforce the constitutional rights of women and girls not to be subjected to practices that are harmful to their health and well-being.”
The parliamentary ban followed President Jammeh’s impromptu executive order last month. He described the practice as “outdated and unIslamic” and threatened religious and traditional leaders for challenging his edit.
The deputy Speaker Fatou Mbye was thrilled about the act, describing it as “one of the most progressive pieces of legislation enacted by the Parliament. But the Majority Leader’s tone conveys a totally different tone. Fabakary Tombong wishes there was enough time allocated to sensitise Gambians on the deep rooted practice, which according to its defenders, should be preserved for so many reasons. Campaigners say its disadvantages far outweighs advantages.
One lawmaker who voted against the ban was the Minority Leader Samba Jallow. Hon. Jallow believes the government should have sufficiently consulted the public before rushing to table a bill in parliament.
It is not clear whether the ban will be a cosmetic one as it happens in the case of skin bleaching. Through a presidential decree, then military junta Chairman Jammeh banned skin bleaching for posing threats to women’s health. Skin bleaching in the country is more rampant today than at anytime in The Gambia’s history.