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FGM is un-Islamic! Neneh Bojang wants to help mutilated girls to repair their clitoris
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FGM is un-Islamic! Neneh Bojang wants to help mutilated girls to repair their clitoris

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is a harmful and dangerous practice that involves the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia for non-medical reasons. Neneh Bojang is a Gambian living in Norway and she is among the African women fighting to end FGM at grassroots, regional, national and international levels. 

Neneh was recently elected as the President of the European Network for Female Genital Mutilation (EuroNet-FGM) in Berlin, Germany.  In this interview, she tells What’s On-Gambia more about her crusade to end the practice and her plans to help mutilated girls repair their clitoris.  

What’s On-Gambia:  We would like to offer you our warmest congratulations on your election as the president for EuroNet-FGM. Can you please tell us more about the organization and your duties as president? 

Neneh Bojang: I am honoured to be elected as the President of The European Network for the Prevention of Harmful Traditional Practices (EuroNet -FGM). 

In the last few years there has been a growing impetus to address female genital mutilation at national, regional and international levels. The adoption of the United Nations General Assembly Resolution, to ban female genital mutilation which the EuroNet-FGM along with its partners played a central role has for example contributed to this momentum. The decision reiterates the importance of enhancing efforts at the global level to effectively address the practice. 

The new board of the Euronet-FGM which also consists of Ms. Kaidy Koita as Vice President, Dr. Tobe Levin as Secretary,   Mrs. Heidi Heidi Besas as treasurer, Sarah McCulloch as assistant treasurer and Mrs. Fana Habteab as Honorary President believe that gender equality is a key human right that is central to the economic and human development in any country. 

Ending violence against women and girls has gained unprecedented political momentum in recent years. So change is happening. Yet female genital mutilation is still widely prevalent, with between 100 and 140 million girls and women in the world having undergone the practice, according to the World Health Organization. 

During the last decades, Europe, has received thousands of immigrants and refugees of African origin that practice FGM. Consequently, several NGOs, governments and health professionals of different nationalities were incited to find ways of preventing the practice. 

It was believed that a European Network was needed to improve the co-operation at European level, for lobbying for the eradication of harmful traditional practices and to empower the non-governmental organizations working towards the prevention of harmful traditional practices in Europe. 

Following various meetings and workshops, EuroNet-FGM was finally created and officially established in 2002. EuroNet-FGM aims at improving the health of female immigrants in Europe and to fight harmful traditional practices affecting the health of women and children, in particular FGM, as well as forced and early marriages in Europe. Our aim is to continue to be the main lobbying and networking organization, for the abandonment of FGM and other harmful traditions as well as fighting for the empowerment and wellbeing of minority women because as women we also deserve to feel well because we are definitely worth it. 

Neneh FGM

So what are your duties as president of EuroNet-FGM? 

The President represents the organization in all affairs. She should be competent enough to represent EuroNet-FGM in legal proceedings and also lead the struggle and lobbying campaigns. I’m elected to serve for 3 years. 

Have you gone through FGM? 

I reserve my right to answer that question, but I come from an ethnic group in The Gambia that practice FGM. 

Do you think FGM is a crime? 

Yes FGM is a crime against humanity and is a serious violation of the bodily integrity of women and children. 

What is your response to the widespread belief that the practice helps to purify the female body? 

It is crime that is excused under the pretext of custom and tradition and sometimes religion. Islam emphasizes the importance of taking expert advice, e.g. from medical doctors (Quran: 16: 43).

Cutting healthy organs and causing any physical harm is unlawful (Quran: 2: 195).  Allah condemns those who change His creation (Quran: 4: 119). Women have a right to a healthy body and enjoyment of matrimonial sexual relations. 

Islam lays emphasis on good upbringing (tarbiya) and moral teachings to ensure chastity 

Nobody should be punished for fear that they could potentially indulge in unlawful sex. Nothing should be done to the body that would prevent purity for the purposes of worship (Infibulation makes genital hygiene impossible). 

Islam condemns harmful cultural practices, e.g. female infanticide (Quran: 81: 8-9). One should not succumb to community pressure at the expense of disobeying Allah. 

Every Muslim, and especially those in positions of authority, has an obligation to correct bad practices (Quran: 3: 110). 


What you are saying is that FGM have no connection with Islam and is not mentioned anywhere in the Holy Quran? 

Yes! A practice or an act can only be referred to as Islamic if based on evidence from the following sources: 

Quran – the word of God.

Sunnah – practice of the Prophet Mohamed (PBUH).

Ijma – consensus by scholars.

Qiyas – making a comparison (for example, between Female circumcision and male circumcision). The verse (Quran: 4: 125) is only applicable to male circumcision. 

Nothing in the sunnah. No authentic or applicable hadith. Nothing from the deeds of the Prophet. So FGM is NOT an Islamic practice but male circumcision is. There is no consensus (ijma) on female from scholars. Difference in what is cut in males it is the foreskin, in females it is a functional organ. 

So the practice is un-Islamic? 

Yes! Female circumcision has been around for several thousand years and pre-dates both Christianity and Islam.  Female circumcision is practiced by Muslims, Christians and other faith communities. No religion or faith requires girls to be cut. 

But why do we have women as the victims and perpetrators? 

We are struggling against some of the most intransigent of social forces - adverse cultural norms, practices and traditions, as well as patriarchal attitudes deeply rooted in gender discrimination. Women feel that this tradition has to be carried on to ensure husbands for their children. 

That is why it is of paramount importance to have men with us in the struggle. We need all members of the community to engage in this struggle. 

Is FGM common among Gambians living abroad? 

I think when you are way from home; there is a tendency to want to hold on to certain norms and traditions in order to strengthen your Identity.  Relatives back home also believe that these traditions should be carried on, so practicing communities feel a pressure to circumcise their girls either as babies or young Girls. 

What are some of the health problems associated with the practice? 

Many of our young girls and women are undergoing a silent tragedy as a result of FGM. The Health consequences range from post-traumatic stress disorders, dermoid cysts, fistula to serious psychological problems. 

Finally, what do you think is the key to end FGM in The Gambia? 

We need a strong commitment from the government of the Gambia to honour its international obligations to end all forms of violence against women and children. We need implementations of laws in The Gambia to stop FGM and other harmful traditions like early and forced marriages .We need community engagement and participation to address these issues. We need media involvement; religious leaders need to come on board to remove the religious justifications for the practice. We need funding for awareness campaigns at grassroots level. We need the participation of men as change agents to make sure that the rights of their sisters, daughters and wives are protected. 

We also need a restoration fund to ensure a reversal of the damages of FGM on girls. 

What do you mean by a reversal of the damages of FGM on girls? 

We at Euronet-FGM are now lobbying for funding for girls to get a restoration of their clitoris and vaginas just like breast cancer patients get their breasts back.


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