A bill prohibiting all forms of female genital mutilation (FGM) in The Gambia has put in place a jail term of up to ten years for anyone found performing circumcision on a girl child in the country. The anti-FGM bill, which is expected to be enacted by the National Assembly later this year or early 2014, also states that if anyone circumcises an adult female, the person commits an offence and is liable to imprisonment for a term of five years.
Prepared by a consultant hired by the Gambia Committee on Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children (GAMCOTRAP), the bill has it that any person who carries out an aggravated FGM is liable to imprisonment for life – whether the person is a parent or a health worker. Aggravated FGM, according to the bill, means an FGM that leads to the death of the victim, or an FGM that causes the victim to suffer disability, or causes the victim to be infected with HIV and AIDS. The bill, which was validated in a national consultative forum in January 2013, even prohibits an attempt to perform FGM. The bill has it that any person who attempts to carry out FGM on another commits an offense and is liable to a fine of D50,000 or to imprisonment for a term of two years. However, if the attempt is by a parent, she or he is liable to imprisonment for three years or to a fine of D100,000.
The executive director of Gamcotrap, Dr Isatou Touray, told FPI that most of what is in the anti-FGM bill originated from the people themselves, after her institution had sensitised them about the dangers of FGM and misconceptions around it. “We have gone through four or five years process before coming with the bill,” Dr Touray said.
“We are privileged because we are not reinventing the wheel for the fact that we were looking at other existing legislations other countries have put in place and contextualized it and also listened to the people.”
She said when the bill was being drafted, they organised series of social mobilization forums at the grassroots level to present the draft bill to the people and clearly explained the content of it to them and together they discussed areas that need adjustment. She said that due to the participatory nature of the development process of the bill, during the national forum for its validation, the whole country was represented and it was overwhelmingly validated. She also claimed that of all the bills passed in The Gambia, the anti-FGM bill has the most support of the grassroots because the development process has been participatory and the bill contains the voices of the populace. She expressed optimism that when the bill is presented for enactment at the National Assembly through the Women’s Bureau and the Office of the Vice President, the members will do justice to it.
For the past two decades, Gamcotrap is engaged in a series of constructive dialogue in raising awareness on the effects of FGM and building consciousness on international instruments governing the protection of women, particularly those instruments ratified by The Gambia. The organization is self-mandated to fight against all forms of harmful traditional practices that are inimical to the health and wellbeing of women and children particularly those practices that impinge on sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and the girl child.