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Abankwah Finally Granted Political Asylum by U.S

After a long and hard-fought struggle, the United States finally granted Adelaide Abankwah political asylum due to the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) in her native country of Ghana. Abankwah is now only the second woman to be granted political asylum in the U.S. based on vulnerability to FGM.

Ms. Abankwah, who is now 29 years old, fled Ghana about 2 1/2 years ago in order to avoid the practice of FGM. Abankwah, whose mother had recently died, was in line to become Queen Mother of her village in Ghana after going through a ritual that was intended to test her purity. Adelaide fled the village, afraid that she would be subjected to female genital mutilation when it was discovered that she had lost her virginity.

She was detained at a U.S. airport when officials found that her immigrant papers were false. She requested asylum and was originally denied by the Immigration and Naturalization Service. She spent two years at the Wachkenhut Detention Center in Queens, New York while waiting for her appeal to be considered.

On July 9, the United States Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Abankwah, and she was released from detention a little over a week later. This past Friday, the Board of Immigration Appeals finally issued a decision in favor of Abankwah, at which point her safety was finally guaranteed.

Protests sponsored by women's and immigration rights groups have been credited with pressuring the INS to reverse its initial decision.

Media Resources: New York Times and Equality Now! - August 18, 1999