Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses
Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape without reference to gender and criminalizes domestic violence. The penalty for rape is life imprisonment. The maximum penalty for attempted rape is seven years’ imprisonment. Spousal and intimate partner rape, which are not illegal, was reportedly widespread, although there were no recent studies or reports; police officers generally considered it a domestic matter outside of their jurisdiction. Rape and domestic violence were widespread problems that often went unreported due to survivors’ fear of reprisal, unequal power relationships, stigma, discrimination, and pressure from family and friends not to report abuses. The penalty for domestic violence is two years’ imprisonment, a substantial monetary fine, or both.
The Ministry of Women’s Affairs, Children, and Social Welfare operated a shelter and cooperated with UN agencies and civil society organizations to address sexual- and gender-based violence.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law bans FGM/C of girls and women; however, the practice had widespread and deeply rooted popular support. Authorities did not always enforce the law. Survivors and witnesses rarely reported abuses because they were uncomfortable implicating family or community members. According to UNICEF and NGOs, 76 percent of girls and women between ages 15 and 49 had been subjected to FGM/C as of 2020. Authorities made no FGM/C arrests during the year.
NGOs, including The Gambia Committee on Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children, Wassu Gambia Kafo, Safe Hands for Girls, and Think Young Women, were at the forefront of combatting FGM/C in the country.
Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment and stipulates a one-year mandatory prison sentence for abuses. Sexual harassment was prevalent but not commonly reported due to discrimination, social stigma, and unwillingness to challenge the offenders. The government did not enforce the law effectively.
Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.
Barriers that impeded access to sexual and reproductive health services included cultural taboos, limited formal education with high illiteracy rates, low wages, and poor infrastructure, particularly in more rural areas of the country. Access to both routine and emergency health care was limited due to lack of capacity in all sectors of the health-care field.
The government attempted to provide access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence, but residents in rural areas had very limited access to basic health care. Emergency contraception was available as part of the clinical management of rape cases, but limited to urban areas, with inconsistent supply at pharmacies and medical centers.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the country’s maternal mortality rate in 2020 was 597 per 100,000 live births. The WHO identified hemorrhage, anemia, early pregnancy, and obstructed labor as the main causes of maternal mortality. FGM/C negatively impacted reproductive and maternal morbidity (see the Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting subsection for additional information).
According to UN Population Fund data from 2020, 41 percent of married or in-union girls and women ages 15 to 49 made their own decisions regarding sexual and reproductive health, including decisions regarding their health care, the use of contraception, and whether to have sex. According to UNICEF, a skilled health-care professional attended 88 percent of births in 2020.
Discrimination: The constitution and law provide for equality of all persons, including with regard to race, color, gender, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, and birth. The law prohibits discrimination in employment, access to credit, owning and managing a business, housing or education. Nevertheless, the law does not provide the same legal status and rights for women regarding adoption, marriage, divorce, burial, and inheritance of property. The government enforced the law effectively.
Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination
In addition to providing equality before the law and prohibiting discrimination, additional provisions in the law prohibit specific types of racial and ethnic discrimination. Political candidates are forbidden from stoking tribal or ethnic tensions. The government evenly and effectively administered these laws.