14 January 2013

Gambia: Lawmakers, Activists Study Proposed Legislation Against FGM

Women's rights defenders under the aegis of the Gambia Committee on Harmful Traditional Practices Affecting Women and Girls (GAMCOTRAP), and members of the National Assembly of The Gambia on Thursday convened a day's national consultation meeting on the proposed "Bill to Prohibit Female Genital Mutilation."

The Paradise Suites Hotel meeting was in response to a recommendation from the National Assembly to conduct a national consultative meeting to update the second arm of government on the results of their findings.

The meeting that was supported by Save the Children International and other development partners, formed part of the success of the partnership that exists between GAMCOTRAP and the National Assembly over the past years. It would be recalled that since 2005, the two have been partnering in conducting series of sensitisation workshops meant to create awareness on harmful traditional practices.

In her address at the ceremony, the chairperson of the occasion, Nyimasata Sanneh-Bojang, who also doubles as a board member of GAMCOTRAP, said the meeting marked the beginning of a very important crusade against FGM in the country. Decrying FGM as a global concern that The Gambia cannot be exempted in tackling it, the former lawmaker thanked all for the struggle against the phenomenon. She expressed hope that The Gambia will be among those countries that will enact the law to abandon FGM.

The executive director of GAMCOTRAP, Dr. Isatou Touray, described the forum as a marked manifestation of their commitment to the advancement of Gambian women and girls in their drive to ensure a protective environment free from all forms of harmful traditional practices. She indicated that the current proposed bill is a true reflection of communities' commitment and not just a proposed document of GAMCOTRAP.

She hastened to register her appreciation to Save the Children International and the UN Women for their long standing partnership and for committing resources to the process.

"GAMCOTRAP is leading women's rights grass roots NGO that promotes the right and well-being of women and children. Part of our mandate is to fight against all forms of harmful traditional practices that are inimical to the health and well-being of women and children, particularly those parties that impede the sexual and reproductive healthof women and girls," she stated.

The government of The Gambia, according to Dr. Touray, has promoted the rights of women and children and that The Gambia is one of the first 25 states to have ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). The government, she acknowledged, has also ratified the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC) and the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

Dr. Touray informed the convergence that they have over the past two decades engaged in constructive dialogue in raising public awareness on the effects of FGM and building consciousness on international instruments governing the protection of women, particularly those instruments ratified by The Gambia.

The deputy British High Commissioner to The Gambia, George Sheriff, and the acting deputy chief of mission at the US Embassy, Tommy Jones, both acknowledged the good work done by GAMCOTRAP, and assured them of their continuous collaboration and support.

A representative of the United Nations Fund for Population Affairs (UNFPA), Fatou Kinteh, indicated that FGM is one of the most deeply-rooted traditional and cultural practices carried out by members of many communities for many years, often spanning generations.

Although the origins of FGM have yet to be established, according to Kinteh, records show that the practice predates Christianity and Islam. She disclosed that it is estimated that over 130 million girls and women alive today have undergone FGM, mostly in Africa, Asia and some Middle Eastern countries.

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