The FGM ban requires more

Thursday, November 26, 2015
The ban on the perennial practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) in The Gambia has been a long-awaited political decision, from those advocating against it, and a relief for the young girls.

This is one of the most impactful pronouncements of the Gambian leader in recent times, particularly against a practice that has huge controversy and division on religious lines among the populace.

While others said the decision to outlaw FGM should have come since yesterday, the Information Minister is right when he told the BBC Focus on Africa that nothing good comes too late.He was being interviewed on the FGM ban.

Henceforth, our young girls will not have their precious part cut, whether in the name of Islam or culture.

According to scientists, even though FGM might have some benefits, the proven health consequences far outweighed anything good about it.

For instance, the UN Population Fund said FGM has serious immediate and long-term health effects, besides being a violation of fundamental human rights.

Immediate complications include severe pain, difficulty in urinating, and haemorrhage which can be severe enough to cause death.Long-term consequences include anaemia, menstrual disorder, painful sexual intercourse, and complications during childbirth.

Therefore, it is good that the Gambian leader has weighed in to save generations of girls from these consequences.

The Gambia now joins at least 20 other African countries that have banned FGM, including Senegal (in 1999) and Mauritania (in 2005).

However, the pronouncement to ban FGM in The Gambia is good, but not an end in itself.

There is a need to have a law explicitly criminalising it.The law should come as soon as possible.

In all the other African countries where the practice is condemned, there are legal penalties ranging from a minimum of six months to a maximum of life in prison. Several countries also include monetary fines in the penalty.

However, the pronouncement and the impending legislation against FGM in The Gambia should not be the ultimate end of the sensitisation of the masses on the practice.

There are communities in countries where FGM has been banned and criminalised, but have continued to practise it.It could be so because their awareness on the impacts of the practice is lacking.

The UN children’s agency, UNICEF, has said sensitisation and education continues to be one of the most critical solutions to curbing FGM.

In The Gambia, we have seen even prior to the banning, there are communities that have publicly dropped the ‘knife’ of FGM; they have had to stop it due to the information they had been receiving on its impacts.

It is even possible that if such sensitisations are intensified, FGM will be stopped in The Gambia, probably not just now.

In essence, the ban and criminalisation of FGM should not make anti-FGM advocates stop the sensitisation; people should see the need to stop the practice even without being forced to do so.

Therefore, sensitisation should be given renewed vigour if the ban and impending law are to make the full impact.

We hope the ban on FGM really means that the practice is done and dusted in The Gambia “forever”, as the President said.

FGM is harmful…

The Point