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Female genital mutilation – also known as female circumcision – is a horrific procedure that is still practiced in a number of countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately 200 million girls and women have had this painful and unnecessary procedure performed on them. Because female genital mutilation is considered unnecessary and a violent act, women and girls who are in the United States and in danger of being deported to a country where this practice is still common may have the right to seek asylum in the United States.
What Is Female Genital Mutilation
This practice involves the cutting, piercing or removal of a female's external genitals. In the more extreme cases, the labia is cut and then stitched together over the vagina. A small hole is left so that a woman's menstrual flow and urine can pass through. Not surprisingly, this procedure causes a woman severe pain, especially during her periods and while urinating. Sadly, the pain can last a lifetime. Other long-term complications from this procedure can include:
Female genital mutilation is typically performed when the girl is still young -- usually between the time they are a baby and the age of 15. Sadly, some immigrants have continued practicing this torturous procedure even after coming to the United States.
Reasons for the Procedure
There are various reasons why female genital mutilation is practiced. In some cultures, it has been the custom for as long as anyone can remember. Other cultures believe that by removing a female's genitalia, she will not be able to derive pleasure during sexual intercourse, which will discourage her from having premarital or extramarital sex. And in other societies, the external genitals are considered unclean and masculine and, thus, should be removed.
In the United States
This practice is against the law in the U.S. because it is considered a violent act against women and/or child abuse. It is not, however, against the law if a woman has already had the procedure. So women should not fear that they will be arrested if they have already had the procedure performed on them.
Young women and girls who are in danger of being deported to a country where this procedure is performed may want to talk to an immigration lawyer as they may be eligible for asylum. In 1996, a 19-year-old woman from Togo, which is located in West Africa, was granted political asylum to remain in the United States. Her father had been opposed to the idea of genital mutilation, so she had never had the procedure performed. But he had died and an aunt had wanted the teenager to undergo the procedure so that she could be married off to a middle-aged man. The teenager fled the country and eventually ended up in the United States. At first, her request for political asylum was denied, and she was imprisoned for more than a year while she waited for her case to be heard. Fortunately for the teen, the Board of Immigration Appeals did decide in her favor, and her case has set a precedent for other women in similar situations.
Political asylum, however, is not typically granted to women and girls who have already had the traumatic procedure performed on them. There is some question in the legal community, though, as to whether these women also deserve asylum. Some say that women who have undergone female genital mutilation should be granted asylum because they often suffer medical complications from the procedure.
Because the laws are still in flux over this situation, women and girls who are in danger of genital mutilation or have already had the practice performed on them should seek out legal advice to see whether or not they can qualify for asylum. Speak to an immigration lawyer at firms like Law Offices of Michael Dye to get more information.Share