On May 2, the Board of Immigration Appeals will hear the asylum request of Fauziya Kasinga who has spent the last two years in jail awaiting asylum from Togo where she escaped female genital mutilation. The decision of the court, the highest administrative tribunal in the U.S. immigration system, will likely set a precedent that could influence future decisions toward women seeking asylum. While persecution on the basis of race, religion, nationality, political opinions or membership in a social group is considered reason for asylum by law, gender is not included in the statute.
Last August, Kasinga’s case was dismissed by a judge who said her story, argued by a law student, was not credible. The student convinced her professor, Karen Musalo of American University’s Washington College of Law to appeal the case pro bono. In addition to bringing attention to the issue of female genital mutilation, the case has also brought to light patterns of abuse in jails and specifically toward I.N.S. detainees.