Advocates says culture of silence on FGM health implications must be broken

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EYEAFRICA TV: Banjul, THE GAMBIA: Advocates of women and girls right against the decades long traditional practice of Female Genital Mutilation and Cutting (FGM/C) are demanding for an end to the culture of silence in communities on the health implications of the practice, saying “the culture of silence must be broken, now.”

At the second international forum on FGM/C in The Gambia organised by Wassu Gambia Kafo (WGK) at Coral Beach Hotel in Brufut, advocates say now is the time for people to stand against what they called a “harmful” traditional practice that have caused serious health implications and sometimes loss of life to many victims.

The two-day forum on the theme, exploring strategies and good practices from local to global-evidence into action was attended by over three hundred people, including health and religious practitioners from The Gambia, Europe and the Americas.

 In November 2015, Gambia’s former President Yahya Jammeh announced at a gathering at his native village of Kanilai that his government would prohibit and ban the practice of FGM, saying he took that decision out of his love and sympathy for victims of the practice, particularly young girls.

The country then became the latest in a string of African nations to ban the ancient tradition of removing external parts of a girl’s vagina that has been widely condemned.

Wassu Gambia Kafo’s director Prof. Adriana Kaplan said Gambia government’s ban on the practice of FGM/C is one of the major conquers of the country, saying amendment of the Women’s Act banning female circumcision by the National Assembly is a protection of girls and mothers, communities, and activists on ground. “Everyone has involved in the decision making and sensitisation and standing up firm for the abandonment of the practice,” she said.

Prof. Kaplan however maintained that people must be aware that applying the law is difficult, as shown in most of other countries where it has been banned for decades because there is a social and cultural environment where FGM/C is a deeply rooted tradition, mixed with religious misconceptions.

Despite Gambia’s ban of the practice some three years ago, some people and families are still practicing it in incognito and it is expected to continue before for some years.

The government placed stiff punishment for both offenders of the practice and their accomplices. Some two years ago, some women were charged and prosecuted at Mansakonko Magistrates’ Court in the country’s Lower River Region following the death of a minor girl who was alleged to have died after she was circumcised.

Gambia’s vice president Fatoumatta Jallow-Tambajang said she conducted thorough Islamic perspective research and consultations about FGM/C and found that it is not a standing Islamic practice.

Bafou Aminata Jeng, a representative from the Justice Ministry said Gambia government prohibited and laid stiff punishment on FGM offenders, saying the outcome of the two day forum will go a long way in assisting government in the enlighten aspect on FGM. “This is important as it seeks to close ranks in the fight against FGM. All states have to work together to fight FGM as one state cannot do it alone.”

 

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