The people that have been pushing hard for the banning of female genital mutilation or (FGM) can now sit back and celebrate this week due to FGM being fully criminalized in The Gambia. This amazing victory comes within the wake of Nigeria’s recent decision to completely outlaw this practice. With these wonderful progressive changes that have been seen in these two African countries while hopefully help encourage other countries to follow suit.
On Tuesday President Yahya Jammeh announced that we vowed to outlaw this barbaric tradition of ‘cutting’ girl’s genitalia with effective and immediate action. It’s said that President Yahya’s decision has been a direct result of the persistent and fierce campaigning by many of the survivors of FGM. Jaha Dukureh, a Gambian FGM survivor had been raising money and resources to make a documentary regarding the issue. In an interview, she told guardian that,
“I’m really 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 real, really happy. I think the president cared about the issue, it was just something that was never brought to his attention.”
“The amazing thing is it’s election season. This could cost the President the election. He put women and girls first, this could negatively affect him, but this shows he cares more about women than losing people’s votes.”
Just this week Jaha was able to win a huge victory, but sadly the war on FGM will go on for now. Did you know that it extremely common in 29 different countries across the Middle East and Africa? Its sad to say but over 130 million young women have been subjected to this continued archaic practice. During this mind shattering process, a female’s labia and/or clitoris is completely cut off, usually by a razor blade or knife.
In some cases like Jaha’s, the vagina is stitched up until the girl’s wedding day. The effects of FGM are horrific. The procedure can cause prolonged bleeding, infertility, infection and even death. Other side effects are not as physical such as the mental and emotional trauma the procedure causes. So the simple question remains. Why in the heck would people do this to their own children?
According to UNICEF: ‘FGM is a fundamental violation of the rights of girls and is a deeply entrenched social norm. It is a manifestation of gender discrimination. The practice is perpetrated by families without a primary intention of violence, but is de facto violent in nature. Communities practice FGM in the belief that it will ensure a girl’s proper marriage, chastity, beauty or family honour. Some also associate it with religious beliefs although no religious scriptures require it. The practice is such a powerful social norm that families have their daughters cut even when they are aware of the harm it can cause. If families were to stop practicing on their own they would risk the marriage prospects of their daughter as well as the family’s status.’
These new progressive changes that have been taking place in The Gambia and Nigeria are modern day proof that activism truly does work. Let’s just hope that this legal step is the first in many that will help change the attitudes and negatives of cultural beliefs, which would mean an end to FGM within the next few generations.
In our modern world, you would think that bodily mutilation of this magnitude would have been a thing of the past at this point. But we are getting closer and closer everyday to a world that allows everyone to live in peace, and one that everyone no matter what, is just as equal and accountable as the next.