The Gambian President, Yahya Jammeh last week announced that he was officially banning the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) in his West African country. The President was at a rally when he made the astounding announcement. The Gambia has been one of the practicing countries in West Africa with a high FGM rate. Seventy-Six Percent of women in the Gambia have undergone FGM, and 56% of girls by the age of 14 have already undergone female genital mutilation.
In the Gambia, FGM is performed by cutting the genitals and then stitching closed the remaining skin so that the women do not have or enjoy sexual intercourse. In the aftermath, it can lead to tetanus, gangrene, HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C.
Jaha Dukureh, FGM Activist & Advocate
According to the Guardian, Activist and Advocate Jaha Dukurah told them, “I’m amazed that the President did this. I didn’t expect this in a million years. I’m just really proud of my country and I’m really, really happy.” Jaha, a Gambian native has been relentless in her plight to help end the practice of FGM, not only in her country but in other parts of the world. In the summer of 2014 Jaha led a campaign on the internet to get the attention of the U.S. Congress about FGM. She successfully amassed 220,000 signatures through the internet, and took her boxes of signatures to Capitol Hill. The signatures prompted a bi-partisan plea in a letter to President Obama, requesting a law against “vacation cutting”. Vacation Cutting is when a girl is taken out of a western country to the parents’ country of origin for the purpose of performing FGM on her.
President Jammeh is up for reelection, and he took a risk of possibly losing the election due to this drastic decision. The Gambian President echoed what several Muslim leaders have stated; that FGM is not required by Islam. In the past, many Muslims have hidden behind religion with the excuse that FGM is a religious practice. However there is no passage in the Qur’an that says the practice of FGM should be done.
According to reports, President Jammeh said that the law to ban FGM is effective immediately. However it is unclear how long it will be until the law is passed for the ban to be enforced. It is hopeful that other African countries will follow what the Gambians have done. Congratulations to the Gambia!