In a move that has been celebrated by human rights activists worldwide, The Gambia’s President Yahya Jammeh has announced that female genital mutilation (FGM) is now banned. Gambia is the most recent in a string of African nations to ban this brutal practice.
The ban was implemented immediately, however, there was no news of when legislation which would back the ban would be implemented. While announcing the removal of FGM, Jammeh stated that it was not a Muslim practice, and was unnecessary.
Typically, FGM involves the removal of the labia and clitoris of young girls, so that all sexual stimulation is gone. Sadly, the practice ultimately causes a long line of health complications including bleeding, infections, vaginal pain and infertility. It has also been associated with tetanus, gangrene, HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C.
“The ban is an essential first step towards ending FGM,” Mary Wandia, FGM program manager at Equality Now, said in a statement provided to The Huffington Post. “A law must now be enacted and … the government needs to show strong commitment and prioritize this issue in a country where three-quarters of women have been affected and reductions in prevalence have been slow to materialize.”
Behane Raswork, who is a leading anti-FGM activist as well as the founder of The Inter-African Committee that currently operates in 28 African countries to end FGM, is calling the ban a “positive step.” She also stated that it was the growing pressure put on the nation by international and national rights groups for over a decade that pushed the president to ban the sadistic practice.
“This is a result of the work undertaken by some non-governmental organizations and women activists who fought against FGM for something like 30 years at different levels, including the UN system,” she told Al Jazeera.
Raswork has also explained that she is calling on local organizations to pull together to ensure that the ban is placed into full effect. “In order to make the law meaningful, the population has to understand its objective through education and information. Different stakeholders including lawmakers, religious leaders, women leaders, and the youth need to be mobilized to help implement the law to ban the practice,” she added.
We can only hope that the ban is not only implemented in The Gambia, but that this movement continues to spread throughout the rest of the African nations still abiding by such an atrocious practice. Genital mutilation is not only wrong, but also very cruel to the small children that must endure it. Thankfully, various nations have taken this very plunge, and that is obviously an indicator of a much brighter and more humane future for the girls in Africa.