Gambia bans female genital mutilation

President says harmful practice has no place in Islam as Gambia follows string of African nations banning FGM.

by
    Gambia bans female genital mutilation
    President Jammeh says FGM is an obsolete practice that is not required by Islam [AFP]

    Gambia has become the latest in a string of African nations to ban female genital mutilation (FGM), an ancient tradition of removing external parts of a girl's vagina that has been widely condemned.

    The country's information ministry on Tuesday confirmed the move in a statement that cited President Yahya Jammeh as saying that FGM has no place in Islam - the country's predominant belief system - or in a modern society.

    Berhane Raswork, a leading anti-FGM activist and the founder of The Inter-African Committee which now operates in 28 African countries to bring an end to FGM, called the move a "positive step".

    FGM can lead to serious infections, bleeding, infertility, maternal complications and even death in some cases.

    Raswork cited growing pressure from international and national rights groups over decades as a main driving force behind Gambia's ban.

    "This is a result of the work undertaken by some non-governmental organisations and women activists who fought against FGM for something like 30 years at different levels, including the UN system," she told Al Jazeera.

    'Local initiatives needed'

    Sabrina Mahtani, a researcher for Amnesty International in West Africa, also praised Gambia's move, but said "time will tell whether concrete steps are taken".

    "There still needs to be more funding towards local initiatives in order to implement the ban," she told Al Jazeera.

    Raswork blames the continent-wide problem on misinterpretations and misuses of religions, including Christianity and Islam, to enforce a "patriarchal system in order to control the female body and most of all its reproductive role".

    She also called for local organisations to work together to put the ban into effect.

    "In order to make the law meaningful the population has to understand its objective through education and information. Different stakeholders including lawmakers, religious leaders, women leaders, and the youth need to be mobilised to help implement the law to ban the practice," she added.

    Gambia joins at least 20 African countries that have banned FGM.

    The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that more than 125 million women across the world have undergone the practice, which involves cutting off the labia and clitoris, often when girls are young.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


    YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

    Interactive: How does your country vote at the UN?

    Interactive: How does your country vote at the UN?

    Explore how your country voted on global issues since 1946, as the world gears up for the 74th UN General Assembly.

    'We were forced out by the government soldiers'

    'We were forced out by the government soldiers'

    We dialled more than 35,000 random phone numbers to paint an accurate picture of displacement across South Sudan.

    Interactive: Plundering Cambodia's forests

    Interactive: Plundering Cambodia's forests

    Meet the man on a mission to take down Cambodia's timber tycoons and expose a rampant illegal cross-border trade.