United States: Virgina Judge Grants Asylum in FGM Case
Monday, May 16, 2011 12:15 PM

On April 26, 2011, an immigration judge in Virginia, USA, ruled in favor of a Malian woman seeking asylum after being subjected to female genital mutilation (FGM) in Mali and fearing further abuse in a forced marriage.  After growing up in Mali under an abusive father, Ms. “A-T-“ travelled to the United States to further her education.  She applied for asylum when she was ordered home by her father who intended to marry her off to her first cousin. 


Ms. A-T-’s petition was originally denied by the same judge in 2005.  The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) upheld that decision in 2007 stating in its opinion that Ms. A-T- was unable to prove future persecution based upon past FGM and that the prospect of forced marriage did not rise to the requisite level of persecution.  The BIA’s decision resulted in stricter legal standard for women seeking asylum based on past FGM than for other previously-persecuted applicants.


However, in 2008, Attorney General Michael Mukasey set aside the BIA’s decision citing the interconnectedness of gender-based violence and stating that past FGM may be indicative of future persecution.  The BIA then remanded Matter of A-T- to the original immigration court for a re-hearing.  The judge’s reversal included a comprehensive review of the evidence and an acknowledgement that the prospect of forced marriage alone may indicate future persecution.  This decision marks an important shift in the legal standard for FGM-based asylum applications.


Compiled from: Breaking News: Tahirih Wins Key Immigration Case (27 April 2011), WURN.