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The Gambia Committee on Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children (Gamcotrap) has called on the Government of The Gambia to consider outlawing Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) thus fulfilling its obligation as duty bearers on girls and women.
In a press release issued yesterday ahead of the International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation marked on 6 February each year, Gamcotrap said that while FGM has been outlawed in 20 out of 28 African countries where the prevalence is high, the governments of Egypt, Nigeria, Senegal, Chad, Kenya, Benin, Tanzania, Togo among others have passed a law against it.
However, the release added, the Gambia is yet to outlaw the practice.
Below we reproduce the full text of the press release:
The International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation, 6th February 2014
The International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is marked on the 6th of February each year.
Zero Tolerance Day originated on February 6, 2003, when the first lady of Nigeria, Mrs Stella Obasanjo, officially declared “Zero Tolerance to FGM” in Africa during a conference organized by the Inter-African Committee on Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children. Since then, this day has been observed worldwide.
As we commemorate February 6, we should acknowledge the bravery of those who first spoke out against FGM advocate for Zero Tolerance to FGM to gain the hard-won successes, but we must also recognize the still-overwhelming challenges and those leaders who are continuing to work on the front lines to make the changes happen.
This is a time to also make the world aware that despite many successes, many of our girls and women are still exposed to the practice of FGM and there is need for collective effort to eradicate the practice.
According to data from the World Health Organization (WHO), an estimated 120 to 140 million women have been subjected to this harmful practice and 3 million girls continue to be at risk each year.
According to the Multiple Cluster Indicator Survey (MCIS) conducted in The Gambia in 2010 by UNICEF, the data indicated that “the approval for FGM/C is 64.2 per cent, and the prevalence of female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) among women is 76.3 per cent”.
We must be aware that the procedure is now done to babies in their first week of life. Traditionally, families do it for a number of reasons including the belief that it preserves a girl’s virginity, prevents promiscuity and to reduce women’s sexual pleasure.
FGM involves partial or total removal of the external genital organs for cultural or other non-medical reasons; a painful procedure that results to severe short- and long-term physical and psychological consequences for the victims.
This violates women’s and girls’ rights to equal opportunities, health, freedom from violence, injury, and or inhuman and degrading treatment.
FGM is recognized as a violation of human rights and it is not rooted in any religion. A number of documents signed and ratified by member states and are binding on the eradication of FGM.
These includes:the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child; the African Charter on Rights and Welfare of the Child; the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women; and the United Nations Declaration on Violence Against Women - an international event that marks the start of the ‘16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence’ among others.
The most recent women’s rights instrument that was signed and ratified by The Gambia in 2005 was the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, better known as the Maputo Protocol, which explicitly urged member states to create awareness on FGM with a view to eradicating the practice.
On the consequences of FGM, studies have revealed some of the ill-effects of the practice could result to physical, emotional, and mental effects.
In one of the studies conducted in The Gambia in 2001 (Morison L, Scherf C, Ekpo G, Paine K, West B, Coleman R and Walraven G) indicates, “In areas where Type II FGM is commonly practised, it was found that women with FGM were more likely to have Bacterial Vaginosis and to have been infected with Herpes Simplex Virus-2 both of which could have implications for increasing risk of HIV infection.”
While FGM has been outlawed in 20 out of 28 African countries where the prevalence is high, the governments of Egypt, Nigeria, Senegal, Chad, Kenya, Benin, Tanzania, Togo among others have passed a law against it. However The Gambia is yet to outlaw the practice.
Over the years The Gambia Committee on Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children (GAMCOTRAP) has engaged in intensive campaign against FGM.
This has deepened the understanding of beneficiaries and 128 circumcisers and 900 communities made a public declaration abandoning FGM.
“We believe it is our duty to protect girls and women from the risk of FGM and to alleviate the pain of women who live with the physical and mental scars from female genital mutilation.”
Despite advances, there are many challenges. There is need for The Gambia to outlaw FGM; beneficiary communities have reached consensus to outlaw the practice and a draft Bill was submitted to the government and awaiting response.
The practice is done to victims without their consent as the age of FGM is now lowered to the first week of the baby’s life.
Several human rights instruments have been signed by the State some of which are binding. The Maputo Protocol is one of the instruments that was signed and ratified by The Gambia in 2005 and clearly stated the eradication of FGM in Article 5 suggesting legislation.
Ahead of celebration of the V- Day, which is on the 14th February 2014 where the whole world is rising to advocate for the eradication of injustice on women and girls, GAMCOTRAP is calling on the Government of The Gambia to consider outlawing FGM thus fulfilling its obligation as duty bearers on girls and women.