Gambia’s parliament has passed a bill which bans female genital mutilation (FGM). The development follows pronouncements made in November last year by President Yahya Jammeh banning the practice to protect young girls.

According to the new law, “a person who engages in female circumcision could face up to three years in prison or a fine of 50,000 dalasi ($1,250)… If the act results in death, a person could face life imprisonment,” the Associated Press reports.

Rights campaigners have welcomed the development.

At least 20 African countries have outlawed the practice Photo: Reuters
At least 20 African countries have outlawed the practice Photo: Reuters

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 125 million women worldwide have undergone FGM, which involves cutting off the labia and clitoris, often when girls are young. The practice has been widely criticised and described as gender-based abuse and discrimination.

FGM affects an estimated 140 million girls and women across a swathe of Africa and parts of the Middle East and Asia, seen by many families as a gateway to marriage and way to preserve a girl’s virginity, Thomson Reuters Foundation reports.

Despite calls by activists for a systemic cultural shift to end FGM, the practice remains prevalent in parts of Africa. Traditional chiefs in parts of Malawi have confirmed that the practice remains prevalent and it is practiced quietly.

In a bid to fight FGM, three universities in Tanzania recently announced they will offer courses on the practice to train health care professionals on how to deal with victims of FGM. The programme would make Tanzania only the second country in Africa to offer such training after Ghana.

About 7.9 million girls and women in Tanzania are believed to have undergone FGM.

At least 20 African countries have outlawed the practice.

Source: AP/ Huffington Post