DAKAR (TrustLaw) – A number of religious leaders in Gambia have called for a ban on female genital mutilation (FGM) which is widely seen as an obligation for Muslim women in the country, Gambia’s Daily Observer newspaper reports.
Imams and traditional chiefs have joined women’s groups in calling for a law against FGM (also known as female circumcision), which they say puts women’s reproductive health at risk.
The centuries-old practice involves removing part or all of a girl's clitoris and labia, and sometimes narrowing the vaginal opening. UNICEF estimates 3 million girls and women are cut each year in 28 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East. The age at which the procedure is carried out varies from country to country.
In many parts of West Africa including Gambia, FGM has been presented as a religious obligation for practising Muslim women, leading most to believe that if they are not circumcised they are unclean and their prayers will not be heard.
Local chiefs in Gambia’s Central River Region said religion could no longer be used to justify FGM and they have given their public support to the campaign to stop the practice, the paper reported
“We the chiefs would not have participated in these activities if they are not in the interest of our people,” said Malick Mbye, a local chief who attended a series of information campaigns organised by the Gambia Committee on Traditional Practices affecting the health of Women and Children (GAMCOTRAP) in the north of the country.
There is no specific law to protect girls from FGM in Gambia, but the government has said it will introduce one in line with the protocol on the rights of women in Africa which prohibits all forms of harmful practice against women.