FGM in Gambia

In 2011, Dr. Adriana Kaplan- Marcusán, a scholar from Gambia, urged WISE Muslim Women’s Global Shura Council to issue a position paper against FGM. After receiving the paper, Dr. Kaplan- Marcusán walked into the colloquium in Mauritania uninvited and asked for the scholars’ and imams’ attention. The religious leaders were speechless— this simply was not done, and certainly not by a woman. But Adriana spoke respectfully to the audience. “I just want to share one thing with you, and then I want your opinion,” she said, and proceeded to read the one- page statement on FGM that the WISE Global Muslim Women’s Shura Council had issued at her urging. One of the senior sheikhs took the paper out of Adriana’s hand and learnt that the “Qur’an mentions that humans were created in “the best stature” (95:4) and strongly condemns acts that negatively affect the human body (Q30:30 and 2:195). No women in the Prophet Muhammad’s household were FGM’ed and the Prophet has said, “Whoever becomes the father of a girl, he should  neither hurt her nor treat her with contempt.” Even in conservative Saudi Arabia, FGM is unknown.

After the Sheikhs saw this scriptural evidence, they said, We are convinced by the arguments that you have presented— and today, right now, we’re issuing a fatwa against FGM. We should ban this practice forever.

In 2018, WISE Executive Director participated in an International conference in the Gambia in honor of the U.N.’s International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), to see how our collaboration had enabled Adriana to change one heart at a time. Adriana reminded WISE “the rigorous and pedagogic document on FGM from WISE was disseminated in all my conferences, workshops, classes, etc.” and it was this secret weapon of the power of knowledge shared by a women which broke the back of this harmful rituals and eventually resulted in Gambia banning the practice.