FGM ban in the Gambia – Global Campaign Strategy

Women listen to FGM activist's campaign in the Gambia

Gambian Parliament takes steps to lift the ban on FGM.

The feminist media movement #FrontlineEndingFGM has launched a campaign to prevent the democratic reversal of the 2015 FGM ban in the Gambia. In March 2024, the Gambian parliament took steps towards lifting a ban on female ‘circumcision’. This move could make it the first country in the world to reverse legal protections against the practice for millions of women and girls.

Speaker of the Gambian parliament's opening address on the FGM ban in the Gambia

The practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) causes lifelong harm to young girls, and government figures show 73% of Gambian women aged between 15 and 49 have undergone FGM. What’s more, FGM is still the number one cause of death in practising countries.

Gambian lawmaker Almaneh Gibba has been leading the campaign to overturn the ban. However, Human Rights groups argue that his views have no reality on the ground; the United Nations considers the cut as a serious human rights violation and a form of torture. Furthermore, Sustainable Development Goal 5 by the United Nations specifically states that FGM must be eradicated by 2030.

#FrontlineEndingFGM supported Gambian activist Jaha Dukureh’s grassroots campaign in 2015 to end the ban. The film ‘Jaha’s Choice’ documents her activism. However, President Jammeh’s unexpected declaration of the ban is now under threat. Now, #FrontlineEndingFGM supports Jaha and the frontline activists leading the fight at the grassroots to #ProtectTheBan on FGM.

Defending the FGM ban in the Gambia

#FrontlineEndingFGM, powered by The Global Media Campaign to End FGM (GMC) is leading a three-pillar action plan:

1) A Grassroots Campaign in the Gambia led by the Gambian organisation ‘Safe Hands for Girls’. They will highlight the need for defending the FGM ban in the Gambia.

2) An International media campaign led by the Global Media Campaign to promote this cause as a global human rights issue. This shall run on social media with global press coverage.

3) Partnering with International Religious Leaders to use their influence to defend the ban against this practice, which is not a necessity of religion. 

The 'Pink Bus' campaign, led by Jaha Dukerah in the Gambia.

The ‘Pink Bus’ caravan campaign to ban FGM ran in 2015. This has been reignited for the purpose of spreading the #ProtectTheBan message across the Gambia. Accordingly, this will be carried out by Jaha Dukarah’s frontline organisation ‘Safe Hands for Girls’. This is a grassroots organisation that works to promote women’s rights in the Gambia. 

GMC will also use their international media influence to bring as much press as possible to exert global pressure on the Gambia to protect the ban. Media advocation will include identifying FGM as preventing Sustainable Development across Africa, and building a legal challenge against the reversal of the ban.

Countering Misinformation

Almaneh Gibba is an independent MP and government critic. Gibba believes most Gambian people don’t want the ban. Gibba argues that Gambia is a predominantly Muslim country and cutting a part of the clitoris is required by Islam. For that reason, FGM is key to a girl’s passage to womanhood. Consequently, GMC also aims to engage religious leaders to publically denounce female genital mutilation. This will help to counter the myth that FGM is a necessary part of any religion or that the ban is a result of Western influence. Grassroots Gambian activists are leading the campaign.

Putting Survivors First

Frontline Gambian survivors of FGM come first in this campaign. There is no medical expert who can defend the practice of FGM. Girls suffer throughout their lives from this irreversible violent mutilation. Prominent FGM Activist Sadia Hussien of the Brighter Society Initiative Kenya has stated:

The Gambian Parliament can try to reverse this bill, but FGM survivors can never reverse what happened to them – let them be heard – decicions to end FGM must be permanent.”

Female Genital Mutilation is no unique issue. It links to sexual and reproductive health, education, child marriage and women’s economic development.

Girls campaigning to protect the FGM ban in the Gambia.

In less than three months, the Gambian parliament will reconvene for a decision on the ban. #FrontlineEndingFGM calls all defenders of human rights to take a stand. The FGM ban in the Gambia must survive.

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