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Foni Kansala NAM Tables Women Amendment 2024 Before Lawmakers 

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Honorable Almameh Gibba National Assembly Member For Foni Kansala Constituency

By Ramatoulie Jawo 

Honorable Almameh Gibba, the National Assembly member representing Foni Kansala constituency, tabled the Women Amendment Bill 2024 on Monday, March 4th, 2024. The bill aims to revoke the prohibition on Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in The Gambia.

The proposed legislation aims to amend section 32 of the Women’s Act 2010, specifically addressing the criminalization of female circumcision and related matters.

Advocates of this amendment argue that FGM holds deep roots within Gambian ethnic, traditional, cultural, and religious beliefs. They contend that upholding this practice is essential for preserving religious sanctity and safeguarding cultural heritage.

Supporters of the bill view the current ban on FGM as a violation of citizens’ rights to freely engage in their cultural and religious practices as enshrined in the Constitution.

The presentation of the bill sparked a contentious debate between Islamic groups, advocating for the cultural practice, and anti-FGM organizations, opposing it, within the National Assembly chambers and its vicinity.

Imam Abdullah Fatty, representing Islamic groups, emphasized the religious allowance of female circumcision in Islam, urging lawmakers to repeal the ban. He clarified the distinction between FGM and female circumcision according to Islamic teachings, citing religious scholars’ interpretations.

“Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is to cut some of the private part of the female genital Circumcision is related to the clitoris, not the genital part So this is the difference. We are advised to take a piece of skin small piece of skin from the clitoris And Dr. Jack Faal has emphasized that if you do it accordingly according to Sharia, no harmful there,” he said. 

He mentioned that numerous individuals engaged in the struggle are Muslims, though their expertise in Islamic knowledge varies, much like our differing levels of proficiency in English.

“Female circumcision is allowed in Islam. Some scholars said it is compulsory. Other scholars said it is Sunnah, It is not a force. For many years, no one was forced to practice it,” he said. 

Conversely, Anna Njie, president of the female lawyer’s association, expressed disappointment with the potential repeal, highlighting the organization’s longstanding efforts to protect women’s and children’s rights. Njie emphasized the importance of separating FGM from religious justifications and urged consideration of its medical implications.

“And it’s important as a country that we put the issue of FGM away from religion. I know there has been a lot of debate that it’s something that has been recommended in some hadiths teachings and sayings of the Prophet Muhammed, but at the end of the day, I think what is important is even if this is a culture that has been practiced so many years whether religion or tradition, what are the medical implications? I think that’s what we need to think about as a country,” she said. 

She stressed that the passing of a bill is a right given to the national assembly, and you cannot stop them from doing it, but there are other rights that are provided in the constitution and if it has to do with the implementation if there is any legal avenue that we can take to stop the implementation we will take it.

In response, Honorable Ahmameh Gibba, the bill’s proponent, stressed the need for equality in allowing individuals the choice to practice or abstain from female circumcision. Gibba urged fellow parliamentarians not to succumb to external pressures and emphasized the importance of legislative decisions reflecting the will of the Gambian people.

Gibba cited instances of arrests and prosecutions related to FGM in 2023 and underscored the necessity of laws aligning with the aspirations of the populace. Despite potential opposition, Gibba reiterated the necessity of parliamentary prerogative in shaping laws, while acknowledging avenues for legal recourse if implementation conflicts arise.

“In 2023 alone, about five arrests and prosecutions have taken place. In setting laws for the human beings it has to be in the wish and aspiration of those people and in which female circumcision is not an exception,” he said.

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