The Gambia Must Not Repeal FGM Ban

  • Opinion by Alimatu Dimonekene (london)
  • Inter Press Service

The report revealed that over 230 million girls and women worldwide have undergone FGM – a 15 per cent increase, or 30 million more girls and women, compared to the data released eight years ago. The largest share of the global burden is found in African countries, with over 144 million cases, followed by over 80 million in Asia and over 6 million in the Middle East.

As the 68th Commission on the Status of Women (CSW68) concluded last week I became particularly anxious for the women and girls of The Gambia. As advocates from around the world arrived in New York to attend the annual event hosted by the United Nations, our excitement was quickly dissolved.

Just hours before, we had learned from our Gambian colleagues that religious leaders — predominantly men including politicians — were voting to repeal a law passed almost 10 years ago by former President Yayah Janneh, which banned the practice of FGM. In that time a law that has saved thousands of girls and women undergoing this devastating human rights abuse.

It came as a shock. However, as world leaders scrambled on what to do or say following the news it was African women including Jaha Dukureh from Safe Hands for Girls, Fatou Baldeh MBE from Women in Liberation and Leadership, Nimco Ali OBE from The Five Foundation, who showed leadership during one of our most challenging times.

Survivors and activists were relentless in our pursuits. In a few days, many of us took to the media, as well as anywhere we could gather within our communities to say no to repealing the law.

This is a crucial moment for the FGM campaign, which could have even further negative consequences for Gambian women and girls. This fight is not just a call to repeal the law on FGM but if this request succeeds, we are going to see a widespread roll back on other fundamental rights of women and girls.

Fatou Kinteh, the Minister of Gender and Children’s Affairs said in a statement at a meeting at CSW68 that: “Women cannot be empowered if their rights continue to be violated“. Yet, this same government is putting them at risk.

World leaders must confront so-called religious leaders too including Imam Fatty who issued this very carefully planned fatwa, even while FGM is still illegal. Leaders like Imam Fatty are very determined to roll back the progress made in the Gambia in the last 10 years. His pronouncement has already cost lives. Because immediately after his statements many families were already receiving threats to have their daughters cut.

I hope that people like UK Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron now stand up to support Gambian women. In 2014, it was under his leadership that the Girl Summit co-hosted with UNICEF themed “A future free from FGM and child and forced marriage” took place. This helped to catalyse the groundbreaking work that gave rise to the ban. During that Summit, as the guest speaker, I was very pleased to hear of action and funding commitments.

As an FGM survivor activist, a global advocate and speaker, and a mother, I am calling on him, as well as all government representatives around the world to immediately release direct funding to women like me – grassroots activists working on the frontlines – to help with this fight.

Leaders should also sanction those who support the call to repeal the ban on FGM, while also finally calling on nations like Sierra Leone to enact laws and implement sustained policies that go towards protecting and safeguarding girls and women from FGM once and for all.

Alimatu Dimonekene MBE, is a leading women and girls rights advocate in the UK:

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© Inter Press Service (2024) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service

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