Female Genital Cutting

Gambia to Vote on Repealing Female Genital Cutting Ban: A Cultural and Human Rights Debate

Gambia is set to vote on legislation to repeal a 2015 ban on female genital cutting, making it the first West African nation to do so. The procedure, also known as female genital mutilation, involves the partial or full removal of external genitalia, often performed by traditional community practitioners or health workers.

It is believed to control a woman’s sexuality and can cause serious bleeding and death. The bill, supported by religious conservatives, aims to uphold religious purity and safeguard cultural norms and values. The United Nations estimates that more than half of women and girls aged 15 to 49 in Gambia have undergone the procedure.

The bill is backed by religious conservatives in the largely Muslim nation of less than 3 million people. UNICEF reported that 30 million women globally have undergone the procedure in the past eight years, most in Africa but some in Asia and the Middle East.

More than 80 countries have laws prohibiting the procedure or allowing it to be prosecuted, including South Africa, Iran, India, and Ethiopia. The UNFPA report states that no religious text promotes or condones female genital mutilation, adding there is no benefit to the procedure.

Girls are subjected to the procedure at ages ranging from infancy to adolescence, and long-term consequences include urinary tract infections, menstrual problems, pain, decreased sexual satisfaction, childbirth complications, depression, low self-esteem, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

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