US Immigration Appeals Equates Forced Marriage and Perpetuated Female Genital Mutilation with “Family Tradition” – (ICE Pt. 4)


The US Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) recently ruled against a young woman’s request for asylum from Mali, where she had been genitally mutilated. A return to Mali would mean a forced marriage to her cousin and the likely mutilation of her daughters. The NY Times reports

“While we do not discount the respondent’s concerns,” Mr. Filppu continued, “we do not see how the reluctant acceptance of family tradition over personal preference can form the basis” for allowing Ms. Traore to stay in the United States.

Family tradition over personal preference? They presume her suffering is over because the act of mutilation has already occurred. It is clear they do not, nor have they truly attempted to, understand this matter, despite reasoning laid out by a Circuit Court in 2005.

In 2005 the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals granted asylum to Somali-born Khadija Mohamed under the finding that female genital mutilation constitutes ongoing persecution . ICE and the BIA had both previously ruled against asylum for Mohammed. In it’s considerations regarding her claim the court found the following:

The court first considered whether female genital mutilation constitutes “persecution.” The court rejected the government’s contention that the practice cannot be a basis for a claim of past persecution because it is “widely accepted and widely-practiced.” Rather, the court concluded that “the extremely painful, physically invasive, psychologically damaging and permanently disfiguring process of genital mutilation undoubtedly rises to the level of persecution” under U.S. asylum law.

(In a footnote, the court noted the practice of many courts and the BIA of referring to female genital mutilation by the initials “FGM.” The court declined to adopt this practice and used the complete expression throughout its opinion, noting that use of the initials “serves only to dull the senses and minimize the barbaric nature of the practice.”)

BIA documentation also consistently misspelled Muhammed’s name.

The court determined that Muhammed suffered from inadequate legal counsel during her petitions and found her original case ruling “nonsensical”, although it stopped short of reprimanding BIA.

BIA’s stringency on this matter is perplexing considering that it recognizes the ongoing persecution of those living with forced sterilization. In fact, in forced-sterilization cases the BIA grants asylum to both sterilized parties and their spouses. (If it’s an unmarried couple or same sex relationship of course, rules don’t apply.) Yet, it continues to deny that the aftermath of female genital mutilation constitutes persecution. The Traore ruling likens the suffering of genital mutilation to that of losing a limb, and finds the assured mutilation of Traore’s future daughters to be of no consequence to the ruling.

Taore has since filed a motion to reconsider, although it sounds like her only chance is follow Muhammed’s lead to hire a private attorney and appeal in court.

There is a disconnect here, where people don’t truly understand what happens to these girls, in Mali as young as five. They mistakenly, or conveniently think this is an issue similar to circumcision. It’s not. If a small bit of skin
on the labia were removed and healed with few repercussions, that would be similar.

First of all, the procedure is done with a serrated knife (or sharpened rock), no sterilization, and no anesthesia. Her clitoris is sawed off, her vulva and sometimes her entire labia is cut off. Sometimes her openings are sewn painfully shut making normal urination and menstruation agonizing. Many girls die from hemorrhaging and life-long infections are routine.

Often, a husband must first cut open his bride where she has healed shut so that he may penetrate her for the first time. This is done quickly, with a small knife, in the marriage bed.

The discrepancy in the BIA’s rulings on sterilization verses female genital mutilation illustrates the view that the ability to procreate is a woman’s highest value. Still.

If it were a man’s penis being removed, or sawed off to a stub so he could still procreate but sex was agonizing and everyday bodily activities invitations to pain, infection, illness, and death, I can guarantee there would be no
dispute on this issue.


The World Health Organization on Female Genital Mutilation



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5 Responses to “US Immigration Appeals Equates Forced Marriage and Perpetuated Female Genital Mutilation with “Family Tradition” – (ICE Pt. 4)”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    Excellent post. Keep it up!

  2. Pirsey Says:

    I can tell that this is not the first time at all that you mention the topic. Why have you decided to touch it again?

  3. Elizabeth Says:

    Pirsey! We will not stop talking about this abomination until it is ended! What on earth are YOU talking about! Why would we NOT decry this torture and abomination! Do you condone this practice? I really can’t imagine what to say to you…are you not human? Do you think women are not?!

  4. Elizabeth Says:

    Is there NO one else out there with any thoughts, prayers or opinions about this?!! Culturally sanctioned torture is not something you’ve an opinion about? Violent mysoginey is A.O.K.with all of you? Child abuse is “fine and dandy”? Apparently “”Pircey is an Asian mysoginist who feels this is not a subject worth further comment…perhaps I’m alone in standing up to tell him if he believes this is okay, then I believe he’s a phsycopath of the culturally ordained variety and zI believe if he’s involved or condones this practice he should be in jail for life and face eternal Damnation after. I feel not kindly about the women who subject their daughters to this but I do understand that they have probably been subjected to the same torture…they are forced to sanction and perpetuate the torture and mutilation of women. I don’t care what you say, NO GOD could have condoned this. If your God tells you this is right, get a new God!

  5. sandrar Says:

    Hi! I was surfing and found your blog post… nice! I love your blog. 🙂 Cheers! Sandra. R.

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