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Gambian Lawmakers To Vote On Repealing FGM Ban

IN a crucial legislative session scheduled for Monday, Gambian lawmakers are poised to decide on a proposal that could overturn the country’s ban on female genital mutilation (FGM). This potential reversal has ignited fervent debates surrounding cultural traditions, human rights, and public health concerns.

Enacted in 2015, Gambia’s ban on FGM imposed stringent penalties, including hefty fines and imprisonment, for those found guilty of perpetrating the practice. FGM, condemned by the World Health Organisation for its harmful physical and psychological effects, has been linked to numerous health complications, including excessive bleeding, shock, and even death.

Despite global efforts to outlaw FGM, a recent report by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) revealed a distressing increase in the number of women and girls subjected to the practice worldwide. The report cited a rise from 200 million to 230 million cases over the past eight years, highlighting the urgent need for intensified action to combat this deeply entrenched issue.


Gambia’s ban, instituted during the authoritarian rule of former President Yahya Jammeh, has encountered resistance in the predominantly Muslim nation, particularly since President Adama Barrow assumed office in 2017. Last August, three women became the first individuals convicted under the FGM ban, signalling a significant milestone in the country’s efforts to combat the practice.

However, the verdict elicited strong opposition from the Gambia Supreme Islamic Council, which defended FGM as a religious virtue and urged the government to reconsider its stance on the ban. Lawmaker Almameh Gibba further fuelled the controversy by introducing a bill to repeal the anti-FGM law earlier this month, arguing that it infringes upon citizens’ rights to practice their culture and religion.

As the nation grapples with this contentious issue, members of parliament have expressed divergent views on the proposed repeal. While some legislators advocate for upholding the ban to safeguard women’s rights and well-being, others contend that it encroaches upon cultural and religious freedoms.

President Barrow, thus far, has remained silent on the matter, leaving the outcome of the parliamentary vote uncertain. In a show of solidarity with anti-FGM advocates, nearly 180 Gambian civil society organisations penned an open letter last October urging the government to uphold the existing legislation.

‘Repealing the anti-FGM law would undermine the significant progress made in protecting the rights and welfare of women and girls,’ the organisations emphasised, underscoring the critical importance of preserving legislative measures aimed at eradicating this harmful practice.

As the nation awaits the outcome of Monday’s vote, stakeholders both within Gambia and across the globe remain deeply invested in the fate of the anti-FGM legislation, recognising its profound implications for the advancement of human rights and gender equality.

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