Skip to main content

Female Genital Mutilation – A Basis for Asylum


After I got my undergraduate degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill I had no idea what I was going to do with my life. I moved to San Diego, learned how to surf and worked with the San Diego Counsel on Literacy. While I was in San Diego I heard the executive director of the Tahirih Justice Center, Layli Miller-Muro, talk about applying for asylum based on female genital mutilation at the San Diego Baha’i Center.

Now, prior to this talk I had no idea what asylum or female genital mutilation was all about. But after Layli was done talking about it I could not believe what I was hearing was actually true and that it went on in certain parts of the world.

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is the removal of part, or all, of the female genitalia. FGM may refer to clitoridectomy (removal of the clitoris), excision (removal of the labia minora), or infibulation (removal of the clitoris, labia minora and majora, and stitching together). The procedure is usually performed in unsanitary conditions, using objects like broken glass, tin can lids, blunt knives, scissors, or razors. Victims are not given anesthesia or antibiotics and rarely have access to medical treatment. Infibulated women have their entire external genitalia cut, scraped, or burned out. The subsequent raw wound is stitched together with cat or lamb intestines or thorns, leaving a small opening for the passage of menstrual flow. The girl’s legs are bound together for up to two months, immobilizing her while the wound heals over.

FGM is done as a traditional ritual signifying the acceptance of a woman into society and establishes her eligibility for marriage. It is believed to inspire submissiveness in young women. Reasons given for FGM range from beliefs that touching the clitoris will kill a baby during childbirth, to hygenic reasons, to enhancing fertility and ensuring chastity. In many societies, an important reason given for FGM is the belief that it reduces a woman’s desire for sex, therefore reducing the chance of sex outside marriage. In FGM-practicing societies it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, for a woman to marry if she has not undergone mutilation. Marriage is often the only role available for women in FGM-practicing societies because they receive little education and are discouraged from pursuing a profession. In the case of infibulation, a woman is “sewn up” and “opened” only for her husband. Restricting women’s sexuality is vital because the honour of the whole family is seen to be dependent on it.

That seemed like the most awful thing I had ever heard. At that moment in time I was so grateful to have been born in a country that did not practice FGM and so proud that my country had an official policy to help women who were in this predicament. The United States is obligated under international law to prevent, investigate, and punish such violence against women. The UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women recognizes that violence against women not only deprives them of their civil and political rights, but also their social and economic rights, saying that, “the underlying structural consequences of these forms of gender-based violence help to maintain women in their subordinate roles, contribute to their low level of participation and to their lower level of education, skills, and work opportunities.” The Declaration provides that states should not invoke any custom, tradition, or religious consideration to avoid their obligation to eliminate violence against women, and that they must exhibit due diligence in investigating and imposing penalties for violence, and establishing effective protective measures.

I had a young woman walk into my office today from a country that practices FGM. She came here as a student but has been told by her family that when she goes home she is to undergo this ritual as part of her marriage ceremony. After we talked about the horror of this procedure we just started laughing because of how awful and ridiculous this procedure seemed to us. It was either laughing or crying…and we preferred laughing. I told her that there was no way she was going home to face this. International and U.S. law would afford her the right to stay in this country. All we had to do was fill out the paperwork and send in all of the supporting documents to immigration.

There are days when I absolutely LOVE my job. I love what I do and I love the people that my profession allows me to help. Today is one of those days. And again, I find myself feeling grateful.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

If You Are An Immigrant (even a US Citizen), Here Are 9 Things You Should Know

Are you a Naturalized U.S. Citizen, Lawful Permanent Resident, Visa Holder, or an Undocumented Immigrant? We recommend you take the following steps to protect yourself in our current version of America.
The last couple of weeks have reminded immigrants, even naturalized U.S. citizens, that they were not born in the United States. Our office has received countless phone calls, emails, and social media messages from people worrying about what their family’s future in the United States holds.
Most people want to know what they can do now to protect themselves from what promises to be a wave of anti-immigration activity by the federal government. Trump's Executive Order on Interior Enforcement has some provisions that should make most Americans shiver.  We recommend the following actions for each of the following groups:
Naturalized U.S. citizens. In particular if you have a foreign accent, and you are traveling within 100 miles of any US Border (including the oceans), we strongly rec…

Why is USCIS Taking So Long to Renew DACA Work Permits?

If the calls to our office are any indicator, there are thousands of DACA recipients whose work permit applications were filed at least three months prior to expiration, who are still waiting for their renewed work permits.  Without renewed permits, these individuals lose the right to work legally, the right to drive, and may once again accrue unlawful presence.

The DHS published a notice in October 2014 advising DACA recipients that they could file their request for extension up to 150 days (5 months) prior to expiration.  As with all things government, very few of the DACA recipients, who tend not to frequent government websites, knew about the memo and many did not file so far before expiration perhaps thinking that extending a work permit was a like extending a drivers license, its is done in a few minutes.  As an experienced immigration lawyer will tell you, the USCIS does nothing quickly, and certainly does not worry that a person may lose their job or their driver's licens…

LOS DERECHOS DE LOS EXTRANJEROS EN LOS ESTADOS UNIDOS

Todas las personas en los Estados Unidos, incluidos los extranjeros y aun los con ordenes de deportacion, tienen ciertos derechos básicos que deben ser respetados por los agentes de Inmigración y Aduanas (ICE). Estos derechos se derivan tanto de la Constitución de los Estados Unidos. y las leyes de Estados Unidos. Como extranjero, usted tiene los siguientes derechos:

SU DERECHO A DENEGAR LA ENTRADA A SU CASA
Usted tiene el derecho de negar la entrada a un agente de ICE a su casa sin una orden válida. Esta orden debe ser firmado por un juez. Usted puede negarse a abrir la puerta, o se puede cerrar la puerta después de descubrir que el agente no tiene una orden válida. Los agentes del ICE generalmente no vienen con una orden judicial. Estos agentes suelen venir a la casa de alguien con una orden final de deportación, muy temprano en la mañana. Si alguien está golpeando en su puerta a las 6:00 am, no le es requerido abrir la puerta. Mirar fuera de primera. Si es un agente del gobierno, ust…