Gambian President Yahya Jammeh has banned female genital mutilation (FGM) in the country, calling it an outdated practice that is not an Islamic requirement, the Information Ministry announced today.
FGM is still a very common practice in the West African country alongside other African countries and parts of the Middle East.
Communication Minister Sherrif Bojang confirmed the ban saying, “Female genital mutilation (FGM) has been banned with immediate effect.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that more than 125 million women worldwide have undergone the practice, which involves cutting off the labia and clitoris, often done when they are young.
FGM can lead to serious health problems, including infections, bleeding, infertility and complications in childbirth, and also impairs sexual pleasure.
The president declared that the practice is not a requirement of Islam, the dominant religion in Gambia, accounting for almost 95% of the country’s 1.8 million population.
Jammeh said that the decision to ban FGM is basically for the protection of the girl child.
There is no specific legislation banning FGM in the Gambia, and commentators say any prosecutions would likely rely on existing aspects of the penal code, such as previsions dealing with grievous bodily harm, punishable by up to five years in jail.