Dozens of discriminatory gender laws should be repealed or revised in The Gambia to guarantee equal rights for women and girls within the legal framework. It’s the conclusions contained in a report jointly produced by the government of The Gambia, the Commonwealth Secretariat and UN Women reveals several discriminatory laws and loopholes which institutionalize discrimination against women.
The report recommends amending 19 laws and repealing 10 in whole or in part. It also proposes enacting two new laws to ensure The Gambia’s legislative framework meets its international obligations on gender equality. The Justice ministry of the government of The Gambia has subscribed to the conclusions of the report and agreed to work to end discrimination in legislation.
The report recommends that some Laws be repealed.
1. Section 33 (5) (c) of the 1997 constitution should be repealed as a basis for harmonizing national legislation
Women’s Act, Children’s Act, sharia and customary law in relation to personal law with CEDAW, as recommended By the CEDAW Committee. The proposed repeal would ensure de jure equality between men and women in all areas of life and strengthen the implementation of National legislation.
2. Christian Marriage Act, 1862
Repeal Sections 10, 11 and 12 of the Christian Marriage Act to protect girls from marriage and prevent exceptions to 18 years as the statutory age of marriage. This will be in line with other laws such as the Children’s Act, the Women’s Act and the proposed repeal to the Civil Marriage Act (below).
3. Married Women’s Property Act, 1885
The term “feme sole” in the Married Women’s Property Act must be deleted and replaced with “unmarried women” or a more acceptable term used to refer to women who are not married.
4. Criminal Code, 1933
Repeal the provisions of Sections 140, 141 and 142 of the Criminal Code, and ensure uniformity and consistency with Section 30(1) of the Women’s Act in relation to abortion. Alternatively, amend the sections to authorize medical abortions in cases of sexual assault, rape or incest, or where the continued pregnancy endangers the mental and physical health of the mother or the life of the mother or the unborn child.
5. Civil Marriage Act, 1938
Section 8 of the Civil Marriages Act must be repealed and replaced with a section stipulating 18 years as the minimum age of marriage in The Gambia. All exceptions to the legal age of marriage should be removed. This will be consistent with the provisions of the Children’s Act and Women’s Act.
6. The Gambia Nationality and Citizenship Act, 1965
Section 9(3) of the Nationality and Citizenship Act must be deleted on the basis that it sets different standards for men and women on renouncing citizenship. The phrase ‘a woman who has been married shall be deemed to be of full age” should be deleted.
7. Skin Bleaching (Prohibition) Act (Decree No 65 of 1995)
The Skin Bleaching (Prohibition) Act must be repealed in its entirety as it is primarily targeted at women.
8. The Women’s Act, 2010
All sections of the Women’s Act that are subject to personal law (Sections 21(1), 42, 43(1), 44 and 45) should be repealed to safeguard women’s rights. Alternatively, amend the sections by deleting the phrase “subject to personal law” from the text of each provision
The Commonwealth Secretary General Patricia Scotland said: “Laws, which undermine one over the other, are a fundamental barrier to gender equality, an obstacle to sustainable development and threaten decades of progress already made for women. “I commend the Government of The Gambia for the bold step in undertaking a comprehensive review of its laws to ascertain the extent to which they are compliant with international and regional norms and standards”, she said.
According to Commonwealth Secretary General Patricia Scotland, “The implementation of the report’s recommendations will make Gambian women and girls even more empowered and will support the government’s efforts to build back better after the COVID-19 pandemic.”