Conflict Alerts

Conflict Alerts # 615, 22 March 2024

The Gambia: The genital cutting and the return of the FGM debate
Anu Maria Joseph

In the news
On 18 March, a bill aiming to decriminalise Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in The Gambia proceeded to the second reading in the parliament. The lawmakers of the country voted 42 to four, advancing the bill. The bill was introduced on 5 March by an independent lawmaker, Almameh Gibba. He argued that the ban on genital cutting violated the rights to “practice their culture and religion” in the Muslim country and that “the bill seeks to uphold religious loyalty and safeguard cultural norms and values.”

On 18 March, on the day of voting, speaking to the Washington Post in front of the national assembly, Jaha Dukureh, a Gambian activist, said: “It is a rollback on women’s rights and bodily autonomy. It is a rollback in terms of telling women what to do with their own bodies. This is all this is. You are denying [us] as women who have been through FGM. You are telling us that what we are saying is a lie.” Dukureh was a victim of the cutting when she was a child and found it out on her wedding night when she was 15. Her younger sister died after the procedure.

Outside the national assembly, women and men held placards that read: “Girls need love, not knives.” Since the introduction of the bill, several popular religious leaders have increased their campaign demanding for revoking FGM. Followers of a popular Muslim cleric, Abdoulie Fatty, are rallying support by chanting: "Female circumcision is my religious belief, Gambia is not for sale."

On 6 March, the UN called The Gambia to withdraw the bill, describing it as "an abhorrent violation of human rights.” UN rights office spokesperson Seif Magango stated: We are alarmed by the tabling of a bill in The Gambian parliament seeking to repeal the Women's Amendment Act of 2015 that prohibits female genital mutilation.”

Issues at large
First, the female genital mutilation (FGM) debate in The Gambia. UNICEF defines FGM as “the partial or total removal of the female external genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.” The cutting procedure differs among societies that are engaged in FGM. At the extreme level, the clitoris, which is a sensitive part of the female reproductive system, is removed, and the genitals are cut and stitched back to control women’s sexuality. According to a UNICEF report in 2021, 76 per cent of females in the Gambia, aged between 15 and 49, have undergone genital cutting. The report represents a timeline after FGM was banned in 2015. The ban was imposed by former President Yahya Jammeh who claimed that the practice is not required in Islam. Jammeh said that after 21 years of studying the Quran, he realised that cutting is based on “no traditional facts.” He banned the practice as “it endangers the lives of women and girls.” It is carried out by traditional women practitioners supported by the mother of the victim, without sterile equipment. Often, the same equipment is used on multiple victims who are under the age of eight. FGM is an inhumane practice that leads to serious physical and psychological issues including infections, bleeding, infertility, depression, trauma and at times death. 

The ban was met with strong criticism from those who supported it. The narratives on revoking the ban began right after Jammeh was out of power. Under the ban, an individual convicted of performing the cutting faces three years in prison or a fine or both. The latest debate began in August 2023 when three women were convicted for carrying out the cutting, and an Islamic cleric paid the fine, saying that the practice was taught by the prophet Muhammad. Further, they began the campaign to reverse the ban, which led to the bill. 

Second, the excuse of history, traditions, religion and patriarchy on the FGM. Contemporary historians claim the practice began in Egypt during the reign of Pharaohs, to prevent the slaves from unwanted pregnancies. However, over time FGM spread across ethnicities and religions, especially in Africa and the Middle East. A practice that then had no religious backing and has been inherently patriarchal, a deep-rooted inequality characterised by male dominance. However, the justifications differ among societies. Some claim it is an important part of their culture. For some, it is a practice out of fear of being socially stigmatized. 

Third, the global challenge of the FGM. On 8 March, on the occasion of Women’s Day, UNICEF released a report that the number of women across the world who have undergone FGM has increased from 200 million to 230 million in eight years. The majority are from African countries, with more than 144 million cases, followed by 80 million in Asia and six million in the Middle East. FGM is practised in 30 countries across Africa and the Middle East. Only Iraq and Oman in the Middle East have provisions against cutting. It is widely carried out in Africa, although banned in 23 countries. In total, FGM is practised in 90 countries across the world, and only 51 countries have laws against FGM. 

In perspective
Undoubtedly, genital cutting is a gross form of discrimination against women and children. It is a brutal practice that compromises women’s right to freedom, health, security and physical integrity- an extreme form of discrimination against women and inhumane. The justification is not mentioned in any of the religious doctrines. 

Two-thirds of the total population in Africa and the Middle East want to end the cutting practice, says UNICEF. Women have the right to ownership of their bodies and it is cruel that there are instances of mothers imposing these beliefs on their daughters. Deep-rooted religious and patriarchal leadership, superstitions and the fear of stigmatization are not easy to cut through. Fundamental rights are compromised under religious beliefs. The genital cutting cannot be justified under any circumstances. The only answer to the FGM is to stop the practice.

March 2024 | Conflict Alert # 620
Islamic State Khorasan (IS-K): A profile
March 2024 | Conflict Alert # 619
Russia: ISIS terror attack in Moscow
March 2024 | Conflict Alert # 618
Gaza: Finally, a UN Security Council Resolution
March 2024 | Conflict Alert # 617
Haiti: Continuing political instability 

March 2024 | Conflict Alert # 614
Continuing Kidnappings in Nigeria
March 2024 | Conflict Alert # 613
The War in Gaza: The Elusive Search for a Ceasefire
February 2024 | Conflict Alert # 606
Ukraine: The Battle for Avdiivka
February 2024 | Conflict Alert # 605
War expands to Rafah, the border town
February 2024 | Conflict Alert # 604
Senegal: Protests amidst the postponement of elections

February 2024 | Conflict Alert # 601
UNRWA relief fund shutdown exacerbates crises
January 2024 | Conflict Alert # 600
Haiti: Continuing Violence and Kidnappings 

January 2024 | Conflict Alert # 599
The Red Sea Crisis: Attacks and Counter Attacks
January 2024 | Conflict Alert # 597
Middle East: Blinken's Fourth Visit
March 2023 | Conflict Alert # 595
Israel-Palestine: Return of violence
March 2023 | Conflict Alert # 594
Ukraine: Battle for Bakhmut
February 2023 | Conflict Alert # 591
France: Continued protests against pension reform
February 2023 | Conflict Alert # 588
US: Air Force shoots down Chinese balloon

January 2023 | Conflict Alert # 586
Israel: Protests against proposed judicial reforms
January 2023 | Conflict Alert # 585
Sweden: Anti-Islamic protests
January 2023 | Conflict Alert # 583
Peru: Fresh protests and continuing political crisis
January 2023 | Conflict Alert # 577
Ukraine: A new military push, worsening the situation
December 2022 | Conflict Alert # 576
The EU: The new gas price capping regulation

December 2022 | Conflict Alert # 573
Russia: Drone attacks escalate the Ukraine war
December 2022 | Conflict Alert # 572
Pakistan: TTP ends ceasefire with the government

November 2022 | Conflict Alert # 568
Ukraine: The Russian withdrawal from Kherson

November 2022 | Conflict Alert # 567
Pakistan: The assassination attempt on Imran Khan
October 2022 | Conflict Alert # 563
Global Hunger Index: Four Takeaways
October 2022 | Conflict Alert # 561
Haiti: Gang violence and beyond
October 2022 | Conflict Alert # 560
Reducing Inequality Index 2022: Three Takeaways

October 2022 | Conflict Alert # 559
China: UNHRC proceeding on Xinjiang
September 2022 | Conflict Alert # 556
Iran: Protests spark against hijab rules

September 2022 | Conflict Alert # 555
EU's food waste 2022: Three takeaways
September 2022 | Conflict Alert # 553
Global Estimates of Modern Slavery 2021: Six takeaways
September 2022 | Conflict Alert # 551
Ukraine: Counteroffensive in Kharkiv and Kherson
September 2022 | Conflict Alert # 550
The UN report on Xinjiang: Four Takeaways
September 2022 | Conflict Alert # 549
Drought in Europe, August 2022: Four Takeaways
September 2022 | Conflict Alert # 547
Iraq: Al-Sadr Withdraws, Protests Intensify
August 2022 | Conflict Alert # 546
Europe: Heatwaves, wildfires, and droughts
August 2022 | Conflict Alert # 539
Iraq: The escalating political crisis
July 2022 | Conflict Alert # 536
The US: Wildfires in California, again

July 2022 | Conflict Alert # 531
Sudan: Military steps down, following protests
July 2022 | Conflict Alert # 530
Sri Lanka: Continuing economic crisis
July 2022 | Conflict Alert # 527
Libya: The continuing political stalemate
May 2022 | Conflict Alert # 516
The US: Another school attack kills 19 children

May 2022 | Conflict Alert # 512
Ukraine: 75 days of the war

May 2022 | Conflict Alert # 511
Ethiopia: Rising communal tensions
May 2022 | Conflict Alert # 510
Sri Lanka: Political crisis intensifies
April 2022 | Conflict Alert # 507
Afghanistan: The rise of sectarian violence
April 2022 | Conflict Alert # 506
Mexico: Protests over continuing femicides
April 2022 | Conflict Alert # 501
Israel: Al-Aqsa Mosque raids
April 2022 | Conflict Alert # 500
Ukraine: The battle for Donbas

April 2022 | Conflict Alert # 499
Russia: The strategic shift from Kyiv to the Donbas
April 2022 | Conflict Alert # 498
Nigeria: Over 100 killed in another gunmen attack
April 2022 | Conflict Alert # 497
Ukraine: Russia's battle for Mariupol
April 2022 | Conflict Alert # 496
Yemen: Finally, a ceasefire

March 2022 | Conflict Alert # 491
The worsening economic crisis in Sri Lanka
March 2022 | Conflict Alert # 488
Russia’s Ukraine Invasion: One Week Later

February 2022 | Conflict Alert # 486
Russia’s Ukraine salami slicing
February 2022 | Conflict Alert # 485
Libya: With two Prime Ministers, a new political crisis
February 2022 | Conflict Alert # 481
Canada: Freedom convoys and a new wave of protests
February 2022 | Conflict Alert # 478
Myanmar: One year after the coup
January 2022 | Conflict Alert # 477
Syria: The ISIS attack on a prison
January 2022 | Conflict Alert # 476
Yemen: The warzone expands in the Houthi-UAE face-off

January 2022 | Conflict Alert # 475
Burkina Faso: Another coup in Africa
January 2022 | Conflict Alert # 474
France: New round of protests over COVID-19 passes
January 2022 | Conflict Alert # 472
Ukraine: Threat of Russian invasion

January 2022 | Conflict Alert # 470
Iran: Two years after Qasem Soleimani
January 2022 | Conflict Alert # 468
Kazakhstan: Bloody unrest and a brutal crackdown

December 2021 | Conflict Alert # 466
COVID-19: Omicron rapidly spreads across countries
December 2021 | Conflict Alert # 464
Ukraine: The West warns Russia over Ukrainian aggression

December 2021 | Conflict Alert # 463
China: 12 million missing children
November 2021 | Conflict Alert # 459
Europe: Restrictions lead to Widespread Protests
November 2021 | Conflict Alert # 457
Cuba: Between bouts of demonstrations
November 2021 | Conflict Alert # 454
Pakistan: A month-long ceasefire with the TTP
October 2021 | Conflict Alert # 447
The US: Protests against the Texas anti-abortion law

October 2021 | Conflict Alert # 444
Brazil: Anti-Bolsonaro protests across the country
September 2021 | Conflict Alert # 441
Yemen: Houthis continue to capture territories
September 2021 | Conflict Alert # 439
Europe: Pride Marches in Serbia and Ukraine

September 2021 | Conflict Alert # 437
Brazil: Protestors call for the impeachment of Bolsonaro
September 2021 | Conflict Alert # 435
Guinea: Another coup in Africa

September 2021 | Conflict Alert # 431
Climate Change: Hurricane Ida destructs the US Gulf Coast

August 2021 | Conflict Alert # 422
Europe: Measures to curb pandemic trigger protests
August 2021 | Conflict Alert # 418
Peru: Protests a sign of challenges facing Castillo
July 2021 | Conflict Alert # 411
Wildfires: Siberia to the US

July 2021 | Conflict Alert # 409
Bosnia: 26 years after the Srebrenica Massacre
July 2021 | Conflict Alert # 405
Colombia: Two months of protests
June 2021 | Conflict Alert # 399
Myanmar: New UNGA resolution

June 2021 | Conflict Alert # 397
Myanmar: The Aung San Suu Kyi trial begins
June 2021 | Conflict Alert # 390
Burkina Faso: Another massacre in Africa
June 2021 | Conflict Alert # 386
Nigeria: Another mass abduction grips Niger state
June 2021 | Conflict Alert # 385
Colombia: The protests continue
May 2021 | Conflict Alert # 382
Israel-Hamas ceasefire: The long road to peace
May 2021 | Conflict Alert # 380
Colombia: Three weeks of protests
May 2021 | Conflict Alert # 378
Israel-Palestine: Who wants what?
May 2021 | Conflict Alert # 374
Yemen: The Battle for Marib rages on
April 2021 | Conflict Alert # 371
Pakistan: Meetings with Afghan leaders

April 2021 | Conflict Alert # 369
Israel-Syria: Continuing Missile Strikes
April 2021 | Conflict Alert # 358
India: Another Maoist attack in Chhattisgarh
April 2021 | Conflict Alert # 356
Global Gender Gap Report 2021: Main Takeaways
March 2021 | Conflict Alert # 353
Niger: 137 massacred in the latest attack by gunmen
March 2021 | Conflict Alert # 351
Yemen: Saudi Arabia announces ceasefire
March 2021 | Conflict Alert # 347
Australia: Women fight against sexual violence 
March 2021 | Conflict Alert # 345
The US: The George Floyd trial begins
March 2021 | Conflict Alert # 340
Syria: UN report calls for a complete ceasefire

February 2021 | Conflict Alert # 333
South Korea: The 'Comfort Women' issue returns to haunt
January 2021 | Conflict Alert # 222
Russia: Pro-Navalny protests turn anti-government 
January 2021 | Conflict Alert # 220
COVID-19: The Vaccine Wars

December 2020 | Conflict Alert # 200
India: Farmers' protests intensify as deadlock persists

November 2020 | Conflict Alert # 191
Pakistan: Anti-French protests called off
October 2020 | Conflict Alert # 174
Bangladesh: Protests intensify against sexual violence
October 2020 | Conflict Alert # 167
India crosses 6 million-mark in COVID-19 cases
September 2020 | Conflict Alert # 166
Pakistan: The persisting polio problem
September 2020 | Conflict Alert # 156
Pakistan: Targeted Violence continues in Waziristan

September 2020 | Conflict Alert # 154
The anti-Racist Protests in the US: Between
August 2020 | Conflict Alert # 148
Israel and UAE normalize relations

August 2020 | Conflict Alert # 146
Bolivia: Protests against the Election postponement
August 2020 | Conflict Alert # 138
In Iraq, the protestors return to the streets 
July 2020 | Conflict Alert # 118
J&K: Geelani's Exit and Continuing Violence
June 2020 | Conflict Alert # 105
Black Lives Matter brings the US to its knees
May 2020 | Conflict Alert # 86
Libya: Khalifa Haftar announces ceasefire 
May 2020 | Conflict Alert # 81
India: The surge in violence in J&K
April 2020 | Conflict Alert # 71
Afghanistan: 300 Taliban prisoners released

April 2020 | Conflict Alert # 67
Syria: New UN Report on Idlib

April 2020 | Conflict Alert # 64
A lethal impact on the Refugee/Migrant Camps 
March 2020 | Conflict Alert # 51
Coronavirus & China: Fall in numbers 

March 2020 | Conflict Alert # 47
Coronavirus & Nepal: In the second stage, cancels

March 2020 | Conflict Alert # 44
Two Presidents in Afghanistan
March 2020 | Conflict Alert # 42
'Aurat March': A New beginning across Pakistan 
March 2020 | Conflict Alert # 38
Sri Lanka withdraws from 30/1 Geneva Resolution
February 2020 | Conflict Alert # 35
A ceasefire between Israel, Islamic Jihad in Gaza

February 2020 | Conflict Alert # 34
Libya: rivals withdraw from Geneva peace talks
February 2020 | Conflict Alert # 33
India: Violence in Delhi
February 2020 | Conflict Alert # 32
Afghanistan: Seven Days of Peace
February 2020 | Conflict Alert # 31
Climate Change Fallouts: Impacts the Bird population

February 2020 | Conflict Alert # 28
Pakistan: Court convicts LeT founder Hafiz Saeed
February 2020 | Conflict Alert # 27
Pakistan: Suicide terrorism returns to haunt Quetta

February 2020 | Conflict Alert # 26
Afghanistan: The US-Taliban Seven Day Deal
February 2020 | Conflict Alert # 24
Israel: Violence in post  Trump-deal
January 2020 | Conflict Alert # 20
Kenya: Al Shabab and a week of killings
December 2019 | Conflict Alert # 19
Citizenship Amendment Bill:2019

November 2019 | Conflict Alert # 18
Lebanon: PM Hariri quits, but protests continue 
October 2019 | Conflict Alert # 16
Bolivian unrest
October 2019 | Conflict Alert # 15
Hundreds protest in Haiti

October 2019 | Conflict Alert # 14
Protests rock Chile
October 2019 | Conflict Alert # 13
Hong Kong Violence: A divide within
October 2019 | Conflict Alert # 12
Spain: The trouble in Catalonia
October 2019 | Conflict Alert # 11
Turkey's Offensive in Syria

August 2019 | Conflict Alert # 9
Africa to be Polio Free
August 2019 | Conflict Alert # 7
Myanmar: Teenage girls traded as brides to China

August 2019 | Conflict Alert # 6
Moscow Protests: Thousands rally in Moscow
August 2019 | Conflict Alert # 3
Jordan Restores diplomatic ties with Qatar