Bill Seeking to Reverse Gambia FGM Ban Passes Second Reading

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A bill seeking to decriminalise Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in The Gambia has passed a second reading in the Parliament.

Though FGM was criminalised in The Gambia in 2015, some seeking to overturn the ban argue that it violates religious freedom and is against the country’s cultural practices.

The bill will now go to a committee of MPs for further consideration.

Survivors of FGM and activists had hoped it would be thrown out, adding that not only did the practice cause lifelong damage but it was also against a woman’s right to bodily autonomy.

They have also argued that removing the ban on FGM would tarnish The Gambia’s human rights record.

There was a heated debate in parliament but in the end, 42 members voted for the bill, four voted against it, and one abstained.

Despite the ban being in place since 2015 it was not until convictions in 2023, when several women were jailed for performing FGM, did calls to reverse the ban gained momentum.

According to a recent survey, 73% of women in The Gambia have undergone FGM with 65% of those cut being under the age of five.

If the bill is passed, The Gambia would be the first country to have reversed a ban on FGM.