Women This Week: Female Genital Mutilation Protections At Risk Of Reversal In Gambia

Political and Religious Leaders Push to Decriminalize FGM 

Members of the Gambian National Assembly may soon propose legislation to decriminalize female genital mutilation (FGM), which was banned in the country eight years ago. Support for repealing the law is not only limited to parliament, as the Supreme Islamic Council has also issued a fatwa condemning anyone who denounces the practice and called for the ban to be reconsidered. In a 2015 amendment to the Women’s Act of 2010, the government criminalized the practice of FGM with violators facing up to three years in prison, a fine, or both. However, efforts to decriminalize the practice began after three FGM practitioners were penalized for continuing to perform the procedure. An estimated three-quarters of women between the ages of fifteen and forty-nine have undergone the practice in the Gambia, which has profound health consequences, including death. “[The] Gambia took a bold step in 2015 towards eradicating FGM, so for us to go back after eight years and start again would have very, very big implications for the country,” said Fallou Sowe, national coordinator of the Network Against Gender-based Violence. 

Progress Still Needed to Advance Women’s Participation in the Workplace 

McKinsey & Company released its “Women in the Workplace 2023” report, which surveyed hundreds of organizations to analyze women’s representation and advancement in the workplace. The analysis showed that women have made gains in representation at senior levels and for the first time ever, female CEOs lead more than 10 percent of Fortune 500 companies. Still, women are slower at advancing in lower managerial and director-level positions, with men holding 60 percent of manager-level positions, and women holding just 40 percent. As a result, there are fewer women eligible to be promoted. Additionally, women of color lag even further behind white women and men who share the same race and ethnicity. “The ‘broken rung’ is the biggest barrier to women’s advancement,” said Rachel Thomas, the CEO and co-founder of Lean-In. “Companies are effectively leaving women behind from the very beginning of their careers, and women can never catch up.” 

Honor Killings Surge in Iran 

Honor killings are escalating in Iran, with at least thirteen women killed in the last seventeen days alone. The latest incidents involve twenty-year-old Razieh Hassanvand, who was killed by her brother, and Trotskeh Abdollahzadeh, a twenty-one-year-old who was brutalized and hanged by her father, father-in-law, and husband. The murder of women and girls is often initiated by male relatives on the grounds they dishonored their family for alleged moral failings, which include eloping, adultery, requesting a divorce, or any accusation of tarnishing the family’s reputation. In the Iran Penal Code, a father or paternal grandfather can kill his daughter without any retaliation from the legal system since, according to Islamic law, a father owns his child’s blood. In 2021, it was reported that every year, between four and five hundred women are killed for these reasons, which is often an underreport as “in some cases, women were driven to suicide, or the cause of the death was not reported as murder but as illness,” said Dr. Rezvan Moghadam, founder of Stop Honor Killings. 

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