FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
13 November 2012
Contact: Brendan Wynne, Media Officer, London
+ 44 (0)20-7304 6902
London, England - The case against prominent Gambian anti-female genital mutilation (FGM) activist and long-term Equality Now partner, Dr. Isatou Touray, the Executive Director of The Gambia Committee Against Traditional Practices (GAMCOTRAP), and her colleague Amie Bojang-Sissoho, has been dropped. Charges had been levelled against them by the government of The Gambia for alleged theft and fraud of €30,000 from Spanish-based organisation, Yolocamba Solidaridad. The women were originally denied bail, even though alleged theft is a bailable offence in The Gambia. Following an international campaign by human rights organisations, including Equality Now, they were released on bail. Subsequently, after a torturous and lengthy trial which lasted for two years and seven months, they have finally been vindicated.
GAMCOTRAP is a national and international leader in the campaign against FGM in The Gambia, where FGM continues to be widely practiced and according to UNICEF, the national prevalence rate is 78.3 percent among women aged between 15-49 years. Opposition to national campaigns against this harmful tradition from conservative religious leaders and others who wield great influence over the government of The Gambia remains strong.
In 1997, the Gambian government censored an anti-FGM media campaign and only rescinded, following international pressure. Dr. Touray and Amie’s steadfast resolve is an inspirational reminder that resistance to FGM cannot be subdued or concealed. Their vindication brings the wider issue centre-stage once again.
The government of The Gambia has an obligation under both regional and international human rights law to ensure that FGM is eliminated as a matter of urgency. In 2005, the country ratified the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (the “Women’s Rights Protocol”) that, in Article 5(b), requires States Parties to prohibit FGM through legislative measures backed by sanctions. In 2000, The Gambia ratified the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (the “Children’s Charter”) which, in Section 21, requires States Parties to eliminate harmful social and cultural practices and in particular those “prejudicial to the health or life of the child”. In addition, the Gambian Constitution guarantees that no individual shall be subject to torture or inhuman or degrading punishment or other treatment. The Gambia is also a party to the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which both call for member states to take measures to protect girls, including from harmful cultural practices.
“In the wake of the vindication of these two campaigners, Equality Now urges the Gambian government to honour its international and regional human rights commitments by enacting and enforcing legislation against FGM, as well as supporting educational outreach to relevant communities on the dangers of FGM in accordance with Article 5 of the African Union Women’s Rights Protocol and Article 21 of the African Children’s Charter”.--Efua Dorkenoo, Advocacy Director of FGM Programme for Equality Now’s London Office.
To learn more about Equality Now's work on FGM, visit www.equalitynow.org/fgm