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GAMCOTRAP SENSITIZES NAMS ON FGM - October 7, 2009 The new members of the National Assembly last Tuesday benefited from a day sensitization workshop on Harmful Traditional Practices, (HTPs) more so female Genital Mutilation (FGM) at the Kairaba Beach Hotel. The workshop organized by the Gambia Committee on Traditional Practices (GAMCOTRAP) aims amongst others to work towards enacting a law against FGM. It also aims to sensitize NAMs and discuss the effects of FGM on women and children's sexual and reproductive health rights. The Executive Director of GAMCOTRAP, Dr. Isatou Touray in her welcoming remarks said an effective national legislation is a vital component of efforts to accelerate the elimination of FGM. "The enactment and implementation of legislation against FGM demonstrates a formal, explicit and lasting commitment by public authorities to turning the tide of social norms that perpetuate the practice and are detrimental to the physical, psychological and rights to integrity of women and girls," she said. Dr. Touray added that a law against FGM can also provide the legal tools for anti-FGM and women's rights groups. "It will also help to protect women and girls willing to challenge the social convention by refusing to undergo FGM", she said. Dr. Touray expressed opinion that an absence of legislation contributes to the perception of FGM as "acceptable" and weakens the legitimacy and impact of FGM advocates as a violation of their human rights. "The Gambia" Dr.Touray went on, has ratified almost all the international and regional instruments regarding women and children's rights. This shows the political will and commitment to advance the strategic interest and human rights of women and girl children, she said. Dr. Touray added that the constitution of the Gambia has given formal equality to w omen and that there are various policy documents that have relevant provisions and commitments to promote women's rights. "Thus the environment is positive for reform of laws or enactment of new laws to protect women and girl children from Female Genital Mutilation that are inimical to their health, wellbeing and their human rights", she posited. Officially opening the workshop on behalf of the Minister of Health, The Assistant Director Family Health and Disease control, Ramou Cole Ceesay said every year women die of complications associated with child birth. She said some of the contributing factors to these deaths are related to the effects of traditional beliefs and practices that are deeply rooted in the community. She said the Gambia Government is committed to the promotion of women and girls' health and in particular their sexual and reproductive health rights. To this right she added that the Gambia has signed and ratified a number of international conventions and declarations to protect women and children such as the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, and the Protocol to African Charter on Human and People Rights on the Rights of women in Africa known as the Maputo protocol and many others. Mrs. Cole Ceesay explained that the government with development partners and stakeholders has developed policies to incorporate the components of the International Conference on Population and Development. The components include harmful traditional practices affecting maternal and child health such as FGM, early marriages and nutrition, taboos amongst others. She however described the workshop as another step in the advocacy to protect girls from FGM which has both immediate and long term effects on their sexual and reproductive health. It will also engage the new NAMS in the process to be able to make informed decisions to protect girls from FGM and early marriage.

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