We would like to reaffirm our support for the activities of
the Gambia Committee on Traditional Practices (GAMCOTRAP), especially its
fight against Female Gender Mutilation (FGM). We hold that FGM is a barbaric
practice that has no place at all in contemporary society. Regardless of its
traditional justification, FGM as is practised in most African societies is
crude and harmful, leaving most girls scarred for life. Long before now, many
African societies, including some in The Gambia, had denounced female
circumcision because they saw no sense in the practice. So the crusade against
FGM is not necessarily an imposition from the West.
FGM is one of those many cultural practices that have not
well. Just because it has been handed down to us by our forbears does not make
it right. It is known to have posed health problems that affect the marital
bliss of most women. Besides, it has been known to ruin the lives of some
women, as it made them sterile. In a report on gender violence that GAMCOTRAP
prepared recently, a 13-year-old girl has this to say: "My medical report shows
that they have done the worse form of excision to me. I no longer have my
clitoris... I want the perpetrators to be punished."
If the young girl had seen any good in the practice, she
would not have asked for those who circumcised her to be punished. It is clear
from the tone of the statement that she is bitter because she has been deprived
of a vital part of her body.
Despite the fact that the best efforts of GAMCOTRAP to stop
this harmful practice, it is still being carried out in some communities. The
Dropping of the Knife in May 2007 represents a big victory for GAMCOTRAP. But a
lot more needs to be done. For a start, the National Assembly should enact a
law that makes female circumcision a criminal offence that is punishable by at
least 10 years in prison without an option of fine. Considering the gravity of
the harm that results from FGM, we believe that only an equally stern measure
can deter people from continuing with it.