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Gambian Lawmaker Advocates For Legalising Female Genital Mutilation

ALMANEH Gibba, a lawmaker in Gambia, has ignited a contentious debate by campaigning to overturn the country’s ban on female genital mutilation (FGM). Gibba’s initiative comes in response to the imposition of fines on individuals found guilty of practicing FGM, marking the nation’s first tangible legal action against the controversial tradition.

Last year’s convictions, though criticised for their perceived leniency, were hailed by anti-FGM activists as a rare triumph against a culture of impunity that often shields offenders. However, they also triggered a backlash from religious leaders and galvanised Gibba’s efforts to reverse the eight-year ban on what he terms ‘female circumcision.’

In defence of his stance, Gibba adamantly rejects what he perceives as Western interference in indigenous traditions, stating, ‘We will not be dictated by Western philosophy and their views on what we do. Who are they to tell us our culture, our religion, our traditional beliefs?’


Despite opposition from rights groups and activists, Gibba’s bill appears poised for approval, having cleared its second reading in March with minimal dissent. However, critics argue that Gibba’s stance disregards the perspectives of excised women and the broader human rights implications of FGM, which the United Nations categorises as a severe violation and form of torture.

Reflecting on the gravity of the situation, Gambia’s former vice president, Isatou Touray, now a prominent advocate against FGM, emphasised, ‘With the world watching, history will judge us based on the actions we take.’

A public consultation on the practice is scheduled for this month, providing an opportunity for stakeholders to voice their concerns before parliament’s final vote. Government data reveals alarming statistics, with 73 percent of Gambian women aged 15-49 having undergone FGM, highlighting the urgency of the issue.

Nevertheless, Gibba’s campaign has sparked fears of a resurgence in pro-FGM activism across Africa, fuelled by notions of self-determination and individual choice. Advocacy groups stress the importance of stringent legislation in combatting FGM, citing the prevalence of the practice in over 70 countries worldwide, predominantly in sub-Saharan Africa.

As the debate rages on, the outcome of Gambia’s legislative deliberations holds significant implications for the global fight against FGM, underscoring the delicate balance between cultural autonomy and human rights advocacy.

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