Gambia lawmakers support maintaining FGM ban

On Monday, Gambian lawmakers backed recommendations to maintain the country’s ban on female genital mutilation (FGM) ahead of a crucial vote later this month on whether to decriminalize the practice.

FGM has been illegal in Gambia since 2015, but it remains widespread. The first convictions last year ignited backlash against the law. During a heated debate, the recommendations from a joint health and gender committee report were adopted, with 35 lawmakers voting in favor, 17 against, and two abstaining.

The final vote on the bill to decriminalize FGM is scheduled for July 24. If passed, Gambia would become the first country to reverse an FGM ban. In March, the bill passed its second reading with minimal opposition.

The joint committee conducted a national public consultation, involving religious and traditional leaders, doctors, victims, civil society groups, and circumcisers. Their conclusions labeled FGM as “a traumatic form of torture” and “discrimination against women.”

“Repealing the law would be a significant setback for the Gambia,” said lawmaker Amadou Camara, who presented the report.

The first FGM conviction last August—three women found guilty of cutting eight infant girls—sparked outrage and led independent lawmaker Almaneh Gibba to introduce the repeal bill in March. Gibba and his supporters, including influential religious leaders, argue that the ban infringes on cultural and religious practices in the Muslim-majority country, though many Islamic scholars dispute this claim.

The World Health Organization states that FGM has no health benefits and can cause severe health issues, including excessive bleeding, shock, psychological problems, and even death.

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