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INS Ruling on Genital Mutilation Hailed Reuters NewMedia WASHINGTON (Reuter) - A ruling greanting US asylum to an African woman who feared ritual genital mutilation if she was sent home to Togo was hailed Friday as a victory for women worldwide. The ruling Thursday by the US Board of Immigration Appeals in the case of Fauziya Kasinga found that she should be allowed to stay in the US because she had a well-founded fear of persecution in her homeland. "It is a good day for women globally," said Rep. Patricia Schroeder, a Colorado Democrat. "I couldn't be more pleased. This has been a long sorry and pathetic saga." Female genital mutilation is practiced in many African countries and some parts of the Middle East. It involves removal of part or all of the clitoris and can cause extensive bleeding and loss of sexual sensation The ruling sets a precedent and could lead to a flood of other applicantsx seeking asylum on the same grounds. But Schroeder said she thought that was unlikely since most women who undergo genital mutilation are young teenagers still living with their families. "It is going to be very, very rare that anybody can use this," she said. Kasinga, 19, is a member of the Tchamba-Kunsuntu tribe of northern Togo. Her father died when she was 15, and she said her aunt forced her two years later to marry a 45 year old man who had three other wives. She testified at a hearing that her aunt and husband planned to force her to submit to genital mutilation before the marriage was consumated. Kasinga said she fled to Ghana and then to Germany before coming to the US in December, 1994. When she arrived she immediately requested asylum, but her request was denied and she was held in detention until this april while her request was appealed. Kasinga said if she went back to Togo, she would be found anywhere she might live and would be taken back to her husband by the police and forced to undergo genital mutilation. "The applicant has a well-founded fear of persection in the form of female genital mutilation if returned to Togo," Board Chairman Paul Schmidt said in his written opinion. "Her fear of persecution is country wide. We exercies our discretion in her favor and we grant her asylum," he said. The ruling was supported by 10 of the other 11 members. One member dissented without a written opinion. The INS which opposed granting asylum to Kasinga without a further hearing to determine her credibility, said it was pleased by the ruling. "The INS is pleased that the board recognized that female genital mutilation can be the basis for asylum. The INS had supported this principle in its argument to the board, pointing out that female genital mutilation is a deeply objectionable cultural practice increasingly subject to condemnation on an international plane." The board said it found that Kasinga was credible and did not htink further hearings were needed. (c) Reuters Ltd. All rights reserved.