The Gambia bans female genital mutilation

Gambian president Yahya Jammeh (L) speaks with his wife, Zeineb Souma Jammeh. (SEYLLOU/AFP/Getty Images)

President Yahya Jammeh of Gambia announced this week that the country will ban female genital mutilation, effective immediately. It is still unclear if legislation will be passed to help ensure that the country of nearly two million can be rid of the practice, which effects some 76 percent of Gambian women – 56 percent of whom are under 14 years old. “This could cost the president the election,” Jaha Dukureh, an anti-FGM activist, said. “[Yahya Jammeh] put women and girls first, this could negatively affect him, but this shows he cares more about women than losing people’s votes.”

Over 100 million women in Africa and the Middle East are subject to female genital mutilation (FGM), which involves the removal of a woman’s labia and clitoris, usually at a very young age. Those who have undergone FGM are prone to infertility and life-long health issues such as infections, bleeding, and vaginal pain. Some in the Gambia argue that female genital mutilation is allowed under Islam, the major religion in the country, and though it remains popular, public support among women has fallen across recent decades.

The Gambia’s decision to ban FGM comes after The Guardian launched a global movement to end the practice in 2014. It joins Nigeria and nineteen other African countries that have implemented such bans.

Read more at The Guardian.

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