Gambian parliament debates bill to lift ban on female genital mutilation


BANJUL – Gambian lawmakers are debating whether to repeal a ban on female genital mutilation, which has been on the rise in recent years despite activist campaigns to end the practice.

The country imposed steep fines and jail sentences in 2015 for those who carry out female circumcision, known by the acronym FGM.

A report by Reuters indicated that the World Health Organisation said the practice had no health benefits and could lead to excessive bleeding, shock, psychological problems and even death.

Lawmaker, Almameh Gibba, presented the repeal bill earlier this month, arguing the ban violated citizens’ rights to practice their culture and religion.

Gambia is an overwhelmingly Muslim country.

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If the bill is passed, Gambia would become the first country to reverse a ban on FGM.

After debating the bill, the lawmakers voted by 42 to four to send it to a parliamentary committee for review, the parliament’s speaker said.

The committee could make amendments to the bill and is expected to send it back to the national assembly for a vote, a routine procedure which usually takes at least three months.

The number of women and girls who had undergone FGM worldwide has increased to 230 million from 200 million eight years ago, the United Nations Children’s Fund reported earlier this month.

It said the largest share of those women and girls were found in African countries, with over 144 million cases, followed by over 80 million in Asia and over six million in the Middle East.

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