Survivor expresses joy as Gambia’s president bans FGM

Dr Isatou Touray and her colleague Amie Bojang who have been fighting against FGM in The Gambia for over three decades

Dr Isatou Touray and her colleague Amie Bojang who have been fighting against FGM in The Gambia for over three decades

Sally Dibba, whose tormenting experience with type III Female Genital Mutilation locally known as sealing was published on this site yesterday, has expressed profound joy after President Yahya Jammeh banned FGM.

“I was very happy when I heard that the President made a pronouncement banning FGM in the country,” she said.

“My experience with FGM was appalling and that must not happen to another person.”

President Jammeh has announced an immediate ban on the practice of Female Genital Mutilation in The Gambia yesterday as he addressed a crowd of supporters at his home village, Kaninlai, in Foni Kansala region.

Jammeh, who declared FGM as a “harmful traditional practice” affecting the health of women, warned local authorities and parents to refrain from the practice or “face serious consequences”.

FGM is closely associated with Islam and according to the country’s recent Demographic Health Survey, its prevalence rate in The Gambia between women age 15- 49 is at 75 percent, 1 percent lower than the previous statistics reported by the MICS survey done by the Gambia Bureau of Statistics in 2010.

The survey also reported that the type of circumcision in 85 percent of the women interviewed during the course of the research involved “cutting and removal of the flesh” while less than 1 percent reported they were cut but no flesh was removed.

Also reacting to the development, Dr Isatou Touray, the executive director of Gambia Committee on Harmful Traditional Practice, said the executive “pronouncement is completely positive and it is even long overdue.”

Dr Touray was speaking to torchongambia from Jareng, Central River Region south where her organization is having the fifth dropping of the knife ceremony and she said she was confident that this day would come.

“The National Assembly should positively react to this good policy pronouncement from the President,” she said.

“I was very optimistic that FGM will one day be outlawed in this country because I have done my research and came to an understanding that FGM is a harmful cultural practice and not Islam.”

Few minutes after the policy pronouncement, Gambians have taken to Facebook and other social media sites to comment on Jammeh’s executive directive.

Prince Bubacarr Aminata Sankanu expressed his support for Jammeh’s decision while paying tribute to organizations like GAMCOTRAP, TOSTAN, TAPS and other “warriors in the anti-FGM struggle”.

Absa Samba, a young activist, said “the statement on banning FGM in The Gambia is a welcomed move”, while urging for a swift enactment of the law against the practice.

Jaha Dukureh, the executive director of Safe Hands for Girls who is currently based in the US, also expressed her support for Jammeh’s decision.

Jaha, who has left The Gambia for the United States barely a week ago, said she had seen President Jammeh over the issue while he was in Basse on his recent Meet the People Tour.

“This is my victory shot!!! Last week Monday, I drove from Banjul to Basse to lobby President Jammeh.

“I stopped in (Jarra) Soma and this was the only choice I had for my coffee. I left Basse not knowing what would happen. Today I can say all of our efforts paid off.”

Analysis:

Female Genital Mutilation is a deeply entrenched cultural believe in many African countries including The Gambia.

However, medical doctors have slammed the practice arguing that it harms the health of women.

The activists in the country have always advocated for it to be outlawed but the Government has never shown readiness to take any action to that effect.

Though the practice predates Islam but many scholars in the country, including the former State House Imam, Abdoulie Fatty, believe it has its root in Islam but acknowledged it is not compulsory.

The practice is also seriously cherished by majority of the population on cultural and traditional grounds.

It is also believed that circumcised women find it easier to control their sexual desire thus reducing the chances of adultery and fornication in the society.

But while he has won many taps on the back from anti-FGM activists, the move by the President as a politician who will soon go back to the people for another presidential mandate in December next year, is considered to be a very brave one.

The minority leader of The Gambia’s lawmaking body, National Assembly, has told a local newspaper that outlawing FGM in the country could be a political suicide because of its popularity among the electorates.

Himself an opposition, other politicians thinking along his line could use this as a political capital against the President during the 2016 presidential campaign.

However, the influence that the President also has could play in his favour in convincing the people that FGM is not Islam and it affects the health of women.

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