Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Female Genital Mutilation as Grounds for Asylum

I apologize for my complete lack of posting. I haven't been feeling well, which is one excuse. But the real one is that sometimes it's just hard to find a good idea that sticks and is post-able. When they do come, it can be from strange places. Like last night, when the fluff-mystery novel I was reading happened to have a little side-plot on female genital mutilation and for some reason this got me wondering why I hadn't heard anything on the role it's playing in US Immigration cases.

Asylum is a tricky thing to petition for. It has strict requirements. Reading denied asylum cases is just about the easiest way to get yourself good and depressed. We've posted on it before with domestic violence cases. They're a prime example of the problems you run into. Getting beaten by your husband, your family, even your village, isn't enough to get asylum. It has to be your government that's out to get you. If the mafia is after you, tough luck.

With all of the denials that go on in asylum cases, I was expecting the worse for female genital mutilation (FGM) cases. It's the kind of practice that is widely done in certain cultures, but we don't hear much about a governmental role. It also can make things difficult when you come from a particular country but are formally governed by a smaller tribe.

I was pleasantly surprised to see that FGM is a recognized basis for protective asylum. In fact, the controversy surrounding FGM in immigration cases is actually concerning women who have already undergone FGM. To get a little background, a February 2008 Congressional Research Service Report for Congress is a good place to get started. While the federal courts seem to find past FGM as sufficient for asylum, the Immigration courts themselves still aren't following suit.

A 2nd Circuit case from June 2008 dealt specifically with three women from Guinea who were all previous victims of FGM. The Court really hit the issue of the deep problems created by FGM and how they may extend far beyond the actual act. It is also an act that can be performed more than once, which offers more protection to those women who have already undergone FGM. The common practices of rape and sex trafficking also played a role in their consideration of potential future harm. You can read the entire opinion here.

It appears that FGM is making some great progress as a successful claim for asylum. Let's hope the trend continues.


habladora said...

Interesting post, Maggie. It's nice to see you around these parts again. It is also good to read that FGM can be used as grounds for asylum. I hope that the Immigration courts begin granting asylum to past victims. Is there anything we can do to help?

Maggie said...

I'm not sure there is. It's mostly legal battles, and those are pretty complicated in Immigration cases, especially when you have a conflict between the BIA and the federal circuits, as you do here. But a little googling found a lot of organizations working to help these women and I'm betting they provided some useful information to the courts through amicus briefs. Mostly, I think we should just show our support for organizations trying to help these women.