The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled this week in favor of a family seeking asylum in the US on the grounds that their daughter may face female genital mutilation (FGM) if they return to their home country of Indonesia. The asylum claim was filed in 2002 by Bob Benito Benyamin and Anabella Rodriguez after their business visa expired. Their claim rested, in part, on the fact that their eldest daughter had been forced, without their consent, to undergo FGM in Indonesia as an infant. They feared a younger daughter would be forced to undergo the procedure if the family returned.
The decision (see PDF) reversed the Bureau of Immigration Appeal’s (BIA) decision that found the FGM performed on the family’s eldest daughter did not constitute past persecution and that the mutilation did not result in serious harm. The appeals court ruling stated, “the BIA’s attempt to parse the distinction between differing forms of female genital mutilation is not only a threat to the rights of women in a civilized society, but also runs counter to [established] precedent.”
The Court found that the parents may derivatively qualify for asylum based on the “well-founded fear of future persecution based on the possibility that Anakarina (their younger daughter) would be forced to endure female genital mutilation if forced to return to Indonesia.” A lawyer for the family told the San Francisco Chronicle that the decision corrected key legal errors made by the BIA and that “there’s no such thing as mild female genital mutilation.” The asylum claim will be reconsidered.
FGM is the partial or total removal of external genitalia. The practice both increases the risk of HIV transmission and increases infant and maternal mortality rates. In many cases, FGM decreases women’s sexual satisfaction. Approximately 3 million young women annually are forced to undergo FGM as a form of birth control and as initiation into womanhood.