From the blog

GAMBIA: Parliament Passes Bill To Lift Ban On Female Genital Mutilation

The Gambia parliament has voted 42 to 4 to advance the bill to lifting a ban on female circumcision in a move that could see the country the first in the world to reverse legal protections against the practice for women and girls.

Gambia banned the practice in 2015and made it the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) punishable by up to three years in prison.

Almameh Gibba, the legislator who introduced the bill, argued that the ban violated citizens’ rights to “practice their culture and religion” in the overwhelmingly Muslim country. “The bill seeks to uphold religious loyalty and safeguard cultural norms and values,” he said.

Activists and rights organisations say the proposed legislation rolls back years of progress and risks damaging the country’s human rights record.

The debate over repealing the ban, imposed by former Gambian President Yahya Jammeh, who ruled the country with an iron fist for 22 years before being toppled in 2016, has divided the nation.

The debate flared up in August, when three women were fined for carrying out FGM on eight infant girls, becoming the first people convicted under the law.

The repeal bill will now be sent to a parliamentary committee for further scrutiny before a third reading, a process that is expected to take three months. The committee can make amendments to the measure.

According to UNICEF’s 2021 report, seventy-six percent of Gambian females aged between 15 and 49 have undergone FGM. It can lead to serious health problems, including infections, bleeding, infertility and complications in childbirth, and impairs sexual pleasure.

Rights groups believe that The Gambia’s move will set a dangerous precedent for women’s rights.