By Loïc Dorthe / GICJ

“The Constitution provides that the law of The Gambia shall consist of customary law for specific communities, also the Sharia, for marriage, divorce, and inheritance”, explains Ms. Fatou Kinteh, Gambian Minister of Gender, Children and Social Welfare. Ms. Hiroko Akizuki, Rapporteur for the country, warns that it contradicts the Gambia's obligation under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).

On October 20th, 2022, at the 83rd session of CEDAW, a group of experts discussed the Gambia's sixth periodic report (CEDAW/C/GMB/6) with the Gambian delegation. Led by Minister Fatou Kinteh, they presented the progress and the lingering  challenges in gender discrimination. While the Minister admitted that violence and discrimination against women persist in her country, she emphasized that progress has been made. Among others, in 2019, The Gambia established  the Minister of Gender, Children and Social Welfare. In addition,  a national strategy is currently being developed to address violence against women, forced marriage, and genital mutilation. Programs to protect women in the corporate sector, including millions of dalasi payments, have benefited approximately 8 million women nationwide. In addition, public elementary school has been free for all girls since 2013.

However, experts are concerned about the efficiency of the "myriad of legislation established" to prevent gender discrimination. They point out that Gambians are leaving the country to continue performing female genital mutilation. A quarter of Gambia’s young female population are married before the age of 18 while the country continues to struggle with the issue of human trafficking, particularly involving girls. Finally, the group expressed concern that customary laws, including Sharia law, which applies to 85% of the population, contradict the states' obligation under CEDAW Art. 2 (e), which obliges the state to act to ensure freedom from discrimination by non-state actors. In this regard, given that some elements of these customary laws are gender discriminatory, The Gambia must act to ensure, in a manner that respects local cultures and traditions, compliance with the CEDAW basics of gender discrimination. 

Geneva International Centre for Justice (GICJ) welcomes the CEDAW Sixth Period Report for The Gambia. We recognise the efforts of the state and the time needed to change entrenched social practices. However, we encourage The Gambia to take more effective measures to protect women and girls from all forms of violence and discrimination, particularly regarding female genital mutilation and forced marriage. 

CEDAW, Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, UN, United Nations, Treaty Bodies, Gambia, Women, Girls, Sharia, Female Genital Mutilation, Forced Marriage, human trafficking, Geneva, Justice, Geneva4Justice, GICJ, Geneva International Centre for Justice

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