Online Program

Legal and medical bases for granting asylum to women with female genital mutilation in the u.s

Monday, November 4, 2013

Sara Gorman, Health Policy and Management, Columbia University, Bronx, NY
Since 1994, the legal community has been avidly debating the question of whether female genital mutilation (FGM) should be considered grounds for asylum. A 1996 case, in re Kasinga, established a precedent for granting asylum to women based on a well-founded fear of persecution in the form of FGM, but it does not apply to women who have already undergone FGM on the logic that they have no real grounds to fear further persecution. This paper analyzes the complex question of whether women who have already undergone FGM should be granted asylum in the U.S. on the basis of the medical consequences of the procedure. There are two essential reasons to insure that women who have undergone FGM are not returned to the countries in which FGM took place and in which the practice is still sanctioned. First, the risks for medical and obstetrical complications associated with FGM can be severe but may be reduced by the surgical procedure deinfibulation, which is performed in the United States. Victims of FGM who are forced to return to their native countries may be subject to a repeat FGM procedure. Second, returning a woman who has undergone FGM to the scene of her traumatic event engenders substantial risk of worsening trauma-related psychiatric illness. The paper concludes that women who have already undergone FGM should have the right to be granted asylum on the basis of significant threats to their physical and mental health if returned to their native countries.

Learning Areas:

Public health or related laws, regulations, standards, or guidelines
Public health or related public policy

Learning Objectives:
Assess the health risks associated with female genital mutilation (FGM) Evaluate whether women who have undergone FGM should be granted asylum in the U.S. Analyze the legal aspects of the debate about granting asylum to women who have undergone FGM

Keyword(s): Female Genital Mutilation, Refugees

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have been a researcher at the Boston Center for Refugee Health and Human Rights for several years and have been researching female genital mutilation and asylum laws in the U.S. for the past two years.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.