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.

(File revised 10 May 2008)