Gambia: Parliamentarians Debate On Bill That Seeks to Protect Pregnant Women From Forced Labour

The Legislative House on Tuesday debated on the Forced Labour (Amendment) Bill 2020. The move was aimed to enacting a bill that sought to eliminate forced labour on pregnant women and children, and as well as to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women.

The move was meant to review and repeal the provisions in the Forced Labour Act found to be discriminatory against Women and Girls in the Gambia in furtherance of the international obligations, constitution and connected matters.

Moving the bill for second reading, Justice Minister, Dawda Jallow, said the amendment is the first of its kind on the continent. He said it is the trailblazer for the recognition, observance and domestication of the international obligations and commitments related to women's rights into domestic law.

He said the enactment of the Women's Act in 2010, signifies significant strikes have been made to introduce a law protecting women. Section 25 of the Women's Act, recognizes the need for periodic review of legislation every ten years, to ensure further compliance with Gambia's international obligations, as enshrined in the conventions on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women and the protocol to the African Charter on Human and People's Rights, he added.

He said, "the amendment intends to review and amend the provisions of this act that are discriminatory against women as mandated by the Women's Act".

"In actual sense, this is an insertion of an additional section to section 7 of the Forced Labour Act. The Forced Labour Act is in cap 56(03) laws of the Gambia 2009 and section 7 A, is an additional new section that is added to section 7. So for this particular amendment, we are not removing or deleting any specific provision."

He said what was being inserted into the law was to ensure that women were not forced to carry out forced labour during pregnancy or execute forced labour that was hazardous to their health and likely to affect their reproductive health. He added what was being inserted was to protect children from any form of labour that was exploitative and hazardous to their health and safety.

Billay G Tunkara, Member for Kantora, who seconded the bill, said the move was in the right direction since it sought to insert a new element to complement or enrich the bill. He however stressed the need to give women maternal leave, but there needed to be safeguards, whereby employers would bear in mind that they cannot force women to perform certain task, which poses risk, and are hazardous and threat to their health.

He said the bill was to protect the rights of juveniles to address the problem of child labour, saying it was the fundamental duty of every government to protect the right of its juveniles from forced labour.

He said improper upbringing and lack of education shatters the hopes of juveniles and that poses threat to national security of countries. He urged that juveniles be protected against all forms of exploitation, adding that this helps in building a brighter future for both the juveniles and women, which the bill aspires to guarantee.

Majority Leader and Member for Kombo South, Kebba K Barrow, said the bill came at the right time. He stressed the objects and reasons of the bill were crucial and were in line with the convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women.

He said: "This is an international instrument that was ratified by the Gambia government and it is significant in helping to shape the foundation of our young people and women during pregnancy".

After the debate on the merits and reasons of the Bill, it was moved to the Assembly Business Committee, for committal to either a particular relevant committee or the committee of the whole house, for scrutiny, recommendation and advice to the plenary.

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