Women of Substance





Mobee Gambia Mental Health Project perspective.

By Salifu Manneh

The need for a Victims support service in the Gambia to offer practical and psychological support to people who had experienced physical, psychological, emotional and financial abuse during detention or a jail term in The Gambia. Mobee Gambia Mental Health Project perspective.

Anecdotal information suggest many male and female survivors of rape, castration, torture, systematic and constant abuse of all forms in the Gambia are living in our communities with little or no support. These individuals are not able to talk about their traumatic experiences. They find experiences of torture and physical abuse too traumatising and overwhelming to talk to family members about their experiences. It had been reported that some ex male detainees had been through invasive castration, had lost their manhood and had contemplated committing suicide.

What is castration? How many detainees or ex detainees from 1994-2016 were subject to castration in the Gambia? What are the psychological implications on the Victim and on his family and network of friends? How can we all lend our support and services to the victims of torture?

These are difficult times in the Gambia. While we are enjoying the freedom we have all fought for let us not forget that in any conflict resolution there are victims, abusers, winners and losers. Those who were abusers before are now very clearly the new victims. Our Nation’s mental wellbeing is paramount. The stakes are very high. We have never been faced with such a massive and complex challenge. We need to tread very carefully. There is a lot of information in the public domain which is causing alarm, more worry and fear and not all such information is reliable and credible. This is why we should all be looking at the way forward with optimism but should exercise some restraint, be objective, be conciliatory in tone and in action and explore ways and means as to how we can regain each other’s respect and confidence.

The process of healing starts right now. Individuals and groups of people had been subject to the most heinous crimes against humanity. Even when tortured during detention, during court appearances, traumatic experiences from castration is so overwhelming, individuals are not able to talk about their experiences of torture and castration. It feels humiliating, degrading and psychologically too difficult to fight off. Manhood is the pride and passion every ‘Man’ is proud of. It is an individual’s right to exercise his sexuality respectfully, privately and in a dignifying manner. If you take away a man’s Manhood, not only have you destroyed him and his family, Castration would most certainly drive him closer to suicide because there will be nothing left to live for. When people give informed consent to be castrated following procedures laid down by the law that is a totally different ball game.

What is castration?

Also known as gonadectomy is any action, surgical, chemical, or otherwise by which an individual loses use of the testicles (Wikipedia).  Orchiectomy: Surgical removal of one or both testicles. Bilateral orchiectomy or castration is the removal of both testicles because the person is no longer able to reproduce. In the UK castration is most commonly used to treat cancer or reduce the risk of cancer. Testicular cancer in men account for 4.2 cases per 100,000. Testicular torsion (twisting of the testicles) account for 4.5 cases per 100,000.

Mobee Gambia is a registered charity in the Gambia. Given the current political and socio economic situation in the Country, we found it prudent to set up a victim support service in the Gambia. We are in the process of developing a concept paper on the subject to seek for funding and other logistics. The Victim Support Service will be run by local and international psychologists, psychotherapists, counsellors and mental health nurses and support workers. Individuals will be seen on a one to one basis and in confidence, dignity and respect. They will be assessed with a view to identify how much damage has already been caused by their traumatic experiences and also to identify the kind and level of support needed for individuals to maintain a balanced mental and physical state and good family life. Individuals will be supported to seek employment, engage in meaningful life activities and where possible develop a care pathway that will over a period of time reduce the burden of their traumatic experiences and give them hope. Mobee would like the service to be a multi-agency service where health and social welfare and the police, the courts, non-governmental agencies to poole financial and human resources together and deliver the Victim Support Service for our citizens and other people who had experienced emotional, psychological, physical, torture, rape, financial abuse and neglect.

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