By Sarjo Camara-Singateh
The National Assembly yesterday passed a Bill banning the practice of female genital mutilation/cutting. The Vice President, Madam Isatou Njie-Saidy, who doubles as the Minister for Women Affairs introduced the Bill at the National Assembly.
The Bill amends the Women’s Act 2010 by criminalizing FGM. In short, a person who engages in female circumcision commits an offence and if found guilty of the act shall face imprisonment for 3 years or a fine of D50,000 or both. But where Female Circumcision causes dead, the penalty is life imprisonment. Accomplices of those engaged in the act
will face up to 3 years imprisonment or 50 thousand dalasi fine or both.
A person who knows that FGM is happening or about to happen and fails to report it is subject to a fine of D10,000.
In introducing the Bill under the watchful eyes of gender activists, Madam Njie-Saidy said all the stakeholders will engage in capacity building, targeting women, children, chiefs, civil society organisation, to name a few. She stated that WHO has condemned the medicalisation or para-medicalisation of FGM/C.
Responding to questions from the floor she said the issue of female circumcision is evidently harmful, it is associated with complications, and some women suffer from fistula as a result of female genital mutilation/cutting
She calls on development partners like UN agencies to consider supporting the move. Dr. Njie-Saidy said the Gambia has ratified and domesticated the CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women), and the Maputo Protocol (the Protocol on the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ on the Rights of Women in Africa), both have criminalized and prohibited FGM.
Seconding the motion, Hon. Fatou Mbye, the Deputy Speaker said this bill is one of the most progressive bills presented in this Assembly.
She said FGM/C is a deep rooted culture that has no health benefit for women. She stated that culture and tradition are not stagnant; Mrs. Mbye said anything done in the name of culture must be beautiful. She said the act violates the human rights of women and girls, “the practice is not beautiful and is not meaningful to us”.
Hon. Fabakary Tombong Jatta, Majority Leader of the National Assembly and Member for Serekunda East, stated that parliament is not against the prohibition and criminalizing the FGM/C, the assembly is only against the approach to abolish FGM. He stated that after he went through the Children’s Act 2005 and Women’s Act 2015, he knew that they fell short of criminalizing and prohibiting FGM.
Not all members supported the Bill. Speakers opposed to the bill include Hon. Samba Jallow, Minority Leader and Member for Niamina Dankunku. He said if FGM is abolished in the Gambia Teenage pregnancy and baby dumping will be the order of the day. He stated that if a woman is not circumcised one will not be comfortable to associate with the circumcised ones.
Buba Ayi Sanneh, Member for Kombo Central, noted that FGM is the Prophet’s sunnah and he will not be part of people who will ban the sunnah of the prophet. He stated that Dr. Isatou Njie-Saidy should explain to him why she chose to say FGM should be banned.
A detailed report on the contributions of members will be published in subsequent editions.