SF Chronicle--11/27/15. Gambia's president advocated banning female genital mutilation.... President Yahya Jammeh ... [said] he could not find any religious justification for female circumcision. Female genital mutilation is practiced in more than half of African countries. It entails the complete or partial removal of the external genitalia of women and girls for non-medical reasons.For a poetic and sensitive story about female circumcision set in Ethiopia, read Camilla Gibb's "Sweetness in the Belly." It's one of those books that, even eight years after I read it still resonates.
The Chronicle news snipped uses the word "mutilation." It's the right word, even if pregnant with condemnation. Here is the controversial anti-Islam crusader Ayaan Hirsi Ali, describing her experience growing up in Somalia. Her grandmother carried out the circumcision contrary to wishes of the parents, and behind her parents' back.
Somalia, where Ali grew up is on the horn of Africa, on the Indian Ocean at the entrance to the Red Sea. It is a lawless country that scores dead last in the Ibrahim Index of African Governance--with a score of 8.9 out of 100!
Gambia is clear across the continent on the Atlantic coast, the smallest African country, with a population of just under 2 million. Its a pinky of a country, sticking into the belly of Senegal.
In 1588 a claimant to the Portuguese throne sold rights to operate in the Gambian river basin to British traders. In 1618, King James I granted a charter to a British Company, and from 1821 to 1965 Gambia was a British colony and protectorate.
Three million slaves were shipped out of the Gambian area during three hundred years of the slave trade. Britain banned the slave trade across its empire in 1807.
Gambians speak English, while the official language in the surrounding Senegal is French. Last year president Jammeh said Senegal would drop English as its official language "very soon." He did not state a replacement language. Several native languages are spoken: Wondigo (38%), Fula (21%), Wolof (18%), and Jola (4.5).
In October 2013 The Gambia unilaterally withdrew from the Commonwealth of Nations (the British Commonwealth). President Jammeh, who seized power in a military coup in 1994, equated calls for good governance with past colonial exploitation in a speech to the UN.
The Gambia's rank in the Ibrahim Index of African Governance (comprehensive ranking of the 54 African countries) has fallen from #12 in 2007 to #27 in 2015. The report for Gambia states:
Gambia is one of five countries to have shown deterioration in every category in the past four years. This trend is reinforced at the sub-category level, with Gambia registering only minimal progress in Rights, Business Environment and Education.The economy (nominal GDP of $918 million in 2012 est.) is dominated by agriculture, fishing, and tourism. There is extreme inequality of income. A third of the population lives below the poverty line of $1.25/day.
In Safety & Rule of Law, the category in which it shows its most pronounced decline, Gambia shows improvement in only one indicator.
Gambia’s broad-based downturn in governance performance, even in Human Development in which it receives its highest rank, is a particular cause for concern.
There is no established state religion in The Gambia, although approximately 90% of the population is Muslim. The Economist has the following chart indicating that nearly 80 percent of women in Gambia have been subjected to genital mutiliation, and more than 60% percent think the practice should continue.