“Female circumcision is banned in The Gambia from Kartong to Koina. For 21 years, I have been researching from the Qur’an and consulting religious leaders on whether female circumcision is mentioned in the Qur’an but I did not find it there”. These were the exact life changing words of President Jammeh on day 15 of his last nationwide tour.
The pronouncement made by the President on 23rd November 2015 which marked the 20-year anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, was welcomed and celebrated both locally and internationally, warranting various people to take to their different platforms to react to the development.
The celebrations continued after the ban was followed by the amendment of the Women’s Act, prohibiting female circumcision and connected matters. The law that received the swiftest enforcement prompted the ongoing case at the Mansakonko High Court involving two women from Kiang Sankandi village in the Lower River Region of the country.
The health effects of FGM are similar but can vary from woman to woman on the type of excision used. For Isatou (not her real name), a young lady in her early 20s and a victim of FGM, said she will forever be thankful to President Jammeh for his commitment to the anti-FGM crusade and welfare of women and for saving her unborn girl children from ‘this harmful and deadly practice’.
The young lady who spoke to this paper on condition of anonymity narrated her ordeal since her excision at the age of 5.
“I am married for over a year now but my wedding night has left me with an unforgettable memory as a result of the pains I had to go through. I was cut at the age of 5 and I guess it was type 4 that was performed on me which requires the excision of a part or all of the external genitalia and stitching/ narrowing of the vaginal opening,” she lamented.
“I could not enjoy the party because I was already told that I have to be taken to a circumciser in the nearby village for the stitch to be removed. I was paranoid but I knew I could not escape the pain because it has to happen for a minute. I had wished I belonged to a tribe that does not practice female circumcision. Until today I hardly enjoy sexual encounters with my husband. I do not wish such or even the minimum for my girl child. I am sure am not alone in this circumstance. That is why I will forever be grateful to President Jammeh for the ban and the subsequent criminalisation of the practice.”
The July 22nd Revolution for 22 years continues to be committed to the attainment of the full and harmonious development of women and children and the girl child in particular, by making it a duty to ensure that they grow up in an enabling environment.
President Jammeh’s commitment towards the protection and fulfillment of the rights of children became even more evident when he recently declared a ban on child and forced marriages.
As the saying goes, children of today are the leaders of tomorrow. So to a great extent, elders of today owe children a fundamental duty. In this light, the move taken by President Jammeh can be considered a fulfillment of that duty to Gambian children.
The consequences of child marriage are appalling. It is a violation of human rights as it robs girls of their education, health and long-term prospects. Alongside an education and childhood being cut short, girls also suffer a traumatic introduction into sexual relationships thereby putting them at risk of domestic violence and STI’s, in addition to having the chance of a career or better life taken away.
Worse of all, many girls die during childbirth or from pregnancy-related complications which according to UN figures is the leading cause of death for girls aged between 15 and 19 years in developing countries.
The Revolution at 22 has proven that promoting women’s rights and gender equality should be the order of the day.
by Fatou Sowe& Fatou Trawally