NA Adopts Joint Committee’s Report on FGM/C

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By: Kebba AF Touray

In what was a tough and intensive debate, the National Assembly on Monday, 8 July 2024, adopted the report of the Joint Committee on Health and Gender on Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting.

The Bill titled Women (Amendment) Bill 2024 seeks to repeal the provisions banning the FGM/C in the Gambia, tabled before the plenary by the Member for Foni Kansala, Hon. Alimameh Gibba.

Tabling the report before the plenary, the Co-Chairperson of the Joint Committee, Hon. Amadou Camara, informed the assembly that the committee in the performance of the tasks assigned to it by the assembly, engaged in a review process to meticulously examine each of the proposed amendments together with the overarching objectives and ramifications of the proposed legislation.

He said that the committee also sought the opinions of experts and relevant stakeholders to ensure well-informed scrutiny.

He stated that the mandates of the committee are to consider and scrutinize the bill, identify witnesses and gather evidence on clauses of the bill, record the opinions of the joint committee on each of the clauses, and provide a report comprising a summary of the evidence gathered from the witnesses.

He said, “According to the evidence received, FGM/C is the partial or complete removal of the external; female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.”

On justification supporting the repeal of FGM/C, he said that some of the witnesses interpreted the legality of female circumcision within Islamic guidelines, but condemned harmful practices associated with it and advocated for a balanced approach that respects religious beliefs while safeguarding women’s well-being.

“The Gambia has also enacted domestic laws, in particular, the Children’s Act of 2005 and the Women’s Amendment Act of 2015 and its amendment of 2015 on the prohibition of FGM, reflecting the country’s commitment to protecting its women and girls from this harmful practice, which is also a gross violation of their human rights,” he said on justifications supporting the repeal of FGM/C.

He said that the lessons learned by the committee include that FGM/C is not Islamic, but a custom/traditional belief, noting that FGM/C is more of a humanitarian issue than a national issue and that all Islamic scholars speak with one voice to produce an overall Fatwa against FGM.

In light of the above, he said: “The committee recommended that the Women (Amendment) Act 2015 should be maintained to prohibit female circumcision in all forms of whether genital mutilation or cutting in the Gambia.”

He added that the committee also recommended the need to protect Women’s health and well-being, adding that repealing the ban on FGM/C would expose women and girls to severe health risks and violate their physical and mental well-being.

The lawmakers were during the debate divided on the content of the report, whilst others questioned the credibility of the report due to insufficient information on such a sensitive matter, others welcomed the report describing it as informative, credible, and fit for purpose.

After an intensive debate on the report, the National Assembly adopted the report, with 35 voted for the adoption of the report, 17 voted against its adoption, and 2 abstained from voting.