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Feminist News


May-03-96

Immigration Board Hears Togo Woman’s Asylum Plea

On May 2, all 12 members of the Board of Immigration Appeals heard the case of Fauziya Kasinga, the 19-year-old woman from Togo seeking asylum in the U.S. to escape Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in her native country. In the 90-minute hearing, immigration service general counsel David A. Martin -- who suggested he did not believe Kasinga’s case in its entirety -- argued that the Board should establish a precedent that only girls and women who would be forced to undergo FGM be granted asylum. The narrow grounds Martin advocated would exclude women who had already undergone FGM, as well as women who would be ostracized from their community if they refused the procedure. Performed with unsterilized knives or even broken glass, the practice entails cutting off all or part of female genitalia and can cause severe health complications and even death. Kasinga’a lawyer, Karen Musalo, urged the panel not to use Kasinga’s case to issue broad guidelines for all women seeking asylum on similar grounds, saying they have a chance to make their own cases. The written decision of the board, expected this summer, will apply to all 179 immigration judges in the U.S. who hear asylum cases.

Media Resources: The Washington Post - May 3, 1996