- A decision by a federal appeals court in New York has come as a saviour for many asylum seeking African women in the United States. The court ruled that three Guinean women, claiming to be victims of female genital mutilation (FGM), should not be sent back to their home country, saying there were obvious errors in denying them asylum.
The three had argued earlier that being sent back to their home country, this could further perpetuate their victimisation. However a lower court had a different view, saying since they had already been mutilated, they had nothing else to loose.
The three Guinean women - Salimatou Bah, Mariama Diallo and Haby Diallo - are to remain in the US pending the review of their court hearings. The US Department of Justice was yet to review the appeals court decision and look into options to follow from.
Commenting following the appeals court decisions, human rights observers said the US justice system had done well in ensuring protection of women's rights, especially when they had already begged for such in US territory.
"Today's ruling is a tremendous victory for women who seek our nation's protection to escape brutal practice of female genital mutilation and other forms of gender persecution that are associated with it," said Mrs Ana Reyes, a lawyer for the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies at Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco, who had filed a supporting brief on behalf of the women.
Female genital mutilation (FGM), although strictly forbidden in the US, is not covered under the US immigration laws despite latest international instruments cognisant of human rights implications of the practice.
As observed in a unanimous decision, a three-judge panel of the US federal Court of Appeals when overturning earlier ruling, one judge, Rosemary Pooler, had written that she was "deeply disturbed" that women's cases "did not receive type of careful analysis they were due." In a concurring opinion, a second judge, Chester Straub, called FGM "a horrendous act of persecution" that had "serious life consequences," adding that the Board of Immigration Appeals had "simply failed."
FGM is a traditional practice whereby women and girls are forcibly subjected to the cutting or removal of their genitalia, causing lifelong medical, psychological, and sexual complications. The practice, mainly found in sub-Saharan Africa, has long been scorned at by international community as inhumane to women who experience long term complications.
For Ms Bah and many other African women immigrants who faced a boot back into the ship back home to Africa, the appeals court decision could not have come at a better time, may be rather too late.
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