|GAMCOTRAP Officials: Pix-Gamcotrap|
A local human rights agency in Banjul, the Gambia Committee on Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children (GAMCOTRAP) has called on the government to enact a specific law to protect girls from Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).
The call came on Tuesday February 6, 2012 during celebrations marking International Zero Tolerance to FGM, a day adopted in August 2003 by governments, and organisations, including the United Nations sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection Human Rights.
On Monday, GAMCOTRAP said it wants a legislation banning FGM across the Gambia, a country notorious for its deep-rooted culture and harmful traditional practices. Hence the lack of it will apparently contribute to the perception of FGM as “acceptable” and it weakens the legitimacy and impact of advocacy against harmful tradition practices.
Human rights violation
FGM is a violation of the human rights principles of International Law including the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, and the African Union Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa.
Speaking at the celebrations organised by GAMCOTRAP with funding from the European Union under the Non-State Actors Strengthening Programme (NSASP), Dr. Isatou Touray, the Executive Director of GAMCOTRAP said “Effective national legislation is a vital component of efforts to accelerate the elimination of FGM”.
“The enactment and implementation of legislation against FGM demonstrates a formal, explicit and lasting commitment by public authorities to turning the tide of social norms that perpetuate the practice and are detrimental to the physical, psychological and rights to integrity of women and girls,” she said.
The Government of The Gambia (GoTG) has ratified almost all international and regional instruments regarding women and children’s rights. This, Dr. Touray said is a sign of “political will and interest to advance the strategic interest and human rights of women and girls”.
However, there remains a daunting task to clean the country of FGM as latest statistics shows 78 per cent of the female population still practices it, showing just a marginal improvement of 80 per cent in 1999.
FGM has survived for long due to religious misconceptions, and that the patriarchal system has succeeded in attributing a negative image of the female body to such a “degree that women themselves have internalized the value of self-devalorisation”.
Speaking on behalf of the United Nations Family Planning Agency (UNFPA), Mrs. Fatou Kinteh noted that the most common form of FGM practice in the Gambia is known as clitoridectomy or excision (the total removal of the clitoris, with or without partial or total removal of the labia minora).
“Some ethic groups in The Gambia practice FGM for religious reason and some Islamic religious leaders and scholars also promote it for religious reason,” she argues. “What is clear is that some Muslims do not perform it, and then it can be concluded it is not religious obligation but a deep-rooted traditional belief and practice.”
The practice has serious immediate and long term health effects and is a violation of fundamental human rights, Mrs. Kinteh reiterated, saying “the health challenges are enormous as 1000 women die daily on a global level, from complications (including circumcision) associated with pregnancy and childbirth”.
Jammeh must speak
Until men become aware of the mental and psychological health effects of FGM, then they will fully participate or stand against it, the United States Ambassador to Banjul, Pamela Ann White said in her keynote address.
“My message to President Jammeh is that we need your voice against FGM,” she said to the Gambian leader, who in 2009 openly stated that “I do not support FGM”.
|Procession against Female Genital Mutilation, Pix - The Daily News|
Marked by a two-kilometer procession, the event was graced by more than 70 participants, mainly women and from across the Gambia, with cultural interludes on the harmful traditional practice of Female Genital Mutilation.
Author: Modou S. Joof