Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Asylum denied

Gosh. Sometimes injustice can be so overwhelming...

Acccording to a NYT article, Alima Traore was a young girl in Mali when she was forced to undergo female genital mutilation. Upon her return home (pending) her father is going to force her to marry her first cousin. In addition to, well, not loving him, she is extremely concerned that her children will have birth defects resulting from such a close union and she fears that her own daughters will be forced to undergo the same mutilation.

Alima applied for US asylum, but in September, the Board of Immigration Appeals rejected her plea and ordered her sent back to Mali. Their ruling was based on the argument that “the cutting, while "reprehensible," could not be repeated. "The loss of a limb also gives rise to enduring harm," the board said, but it would not be a good enough reason to grant asylum.”

Strangely, though, the board acknowledgedthat women who have been subjected to forced sterilization are routinely granted asylum even though that procedure, like genital cutting, cannot be repeated.

In its decision, the board, which is part of the Justice Department, rejected the reasoning of a 2005 decision by the federal appeals court in California, which refused to deport a woman who had been subjected to genital cutting in Somalia. "Like forced sterilization," Judge Stephen Reinhardt wrote for a unanimous three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, "genital mutilation permanently disfigures a woman, causes long-term health problems, and deprives her of a normal and fulfilling sexual life."

Added Judge Reinhardt, “We see no need for using initials rather than the full three-word phrase. We are short neither of paper nor of ink. The use of initials, if it has any effect, serves only to dull the senses and minimize the barbaric nature of the practice.”

Alima’s lawyers are appealing the decision, but – in addition to her own plight -- this should serve as a very painful reminder of all of the women who are forced to have their genitals scraped off with a knife.

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