Statement on the proposal to repeal the Women Act 2015 banning FGM in The Gambia

Statement on the proposal to repeal the Women Act 2015 banning female genital mutilation (FGM) in The Gambia

Position statement by End FGM European Network (End FGM EU) in response to the recent developments regarding FGM in The Gambia.

As the National Assembly of The Gambia will soon enter the second ordinary session of the year to discuss, among other things, the alarming repeal of the ban on FGM, End FGM EU is deeply worried about the potential reversal of the ban and its dreadful consequences on the lives of millions of individuals in The Gambia and the world. This would result in severe violence against the rights of women and girls, depriving them of the layer of protection that the ban on FGM offers and will have a significant impact on the global movement to end FGM. Given this worrying development, End FGM EU produces this statement to call on the National Assembly to stand firm in their commitment to women and girls’ rights and uphold the ban on FGM. We also call on the European Union and EU member states to condemn the actions on The Gambia and progress the global effort in ending FGM.

In March 2024, members of the National Assembly of The Gambia voted 42 (in favour) to 4 (against) to advance the reversal of the Women (Amendment) Act 2015 that prohibits FGM. This practice is internationally recognised as a gross violation of human rights, a form of violence against women and girls and a manifestation of gender inequality. FGM is a deeply rooted practice that exists on all continents and has no religious grounds. Moreover, FGM has no health benefits, on the contrary, survivors of FGM are facing a high risk of chronic pain, infections of the reproductive system, post-traumatic stress disorder and sometimes death. For the practice to be abandoned it requires societal change that can take many years, hence the support from Governmental institutions is key. According to recent data provided by UNICEF, over 230 million women and girls worldwide have undergone FGM signifying that this harmful practice remains a threat to the health and bodily integrity of women and girls everywhere. It is estimated that in Gambia 73% of girls and women aged 15 to 49 years have undergone FGM. Given that Gambia is a country of high FGM prevalence, the ban of the practice was a significant milestone, and sustained efforts are required in order to ensure the eradication of this practice.

The reversal of the current long-standing ban would undo the many years of work achieved by grassroot organisations, civil society, and activists in tackling this harmful practice and would be a huge setback for the global efforts made in eliminating FGM. Gambia would be the first ever country to roll-back on the criminalisation of FGM and, if passed, could set a dangerous precedent for other countries to follow. Pro-FGM campaigns have been seen in other countries, such as Kenya and Sierra Leone, where the right to consent is being used as a means to challenge the criminalisation of FGM. These developments are a stark reminder that harmful gender norms remain embedded in our society. The reversal of this ban sends a worrying message to women and girls everywhere, and we must take action to push back against the rise of the pro-FGM movement now to end this harmful practice for future generations.

However, the situation transpiring in The Gambia does not reflect the attitudes of those grassroots organisations, civil society actors, and activists working tirelessly on the ground to push back against the rise of the pro-FGM movement. We stand in solidarity with anti-FGM activists and civil society organisations in The Gambia and across the world who continue to advocate against this harmful practice worldwide and in particular in The Gambia. We welcome the statement made by the international institutions including the European Union1 UNICEF and UNFPA2 and the United Nations in The Gambia3 pointing out the disastrous consequences of lifting the ban on FGM and calling for urgent measures to abandon the repeal of the Women (Amendment) Act 2015.

Read the full statement here