Asylum for Gender-Based Forms of Persecution, February 2016

Several Clinic cases involved asylum for women who underwent or faced the imminent threat of female genital mutilation (FGM), a harmful and painful practice used to control women’s sexuality.  Even when officially illegal, governments in many countries where FGM is common do little or nothing to prevent it.  In February 2016, Lisa Herrera ’17 and R.J. Hine ’17 successfully represented a West African woman and her five-year-old daughter at a hearing before the Asylum Office.  The mother had not undergone FGM as a child and was strongly opposed to it.  She married a man whose father was a village chief who was strongly committed to maintaining the traditional practice.  When she was five months pregnant, her father-in-law had her abducted to his village, where she was forcibly held down and circumcised with a knife, with no anesthesia.  She was unable to walk for days; ever since, intercourse has been painful for her and childbirth difficult.  When her father-in-law and others in the family started threatening to abduct her daughter for FGM, she, her husband, and their children fled the country and sought asylum in the U.S.  Both mother’s and daughter’s applications were granted.