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Female Genital Mutilation on Trial

April 1996

On Wednesday, April 24, Fauziya Kasinga, a nineteen-year-old African woman who is seeking asylum in this country in order to avoid forced ritual female genital mutilation by members of her tribe, was released from detention by Federal immigration authorities. She had been held for more than a year in several prisons and a detention center while waiting for her case to be heard.

An April 15th article in The New York Times outlining Kasinga's case and describing the harsh conditions of her confinement had drawn extensive public attention and sparked protests by a number of advocacy groups. Many now speculate that the immigration authorities arrived at the decision to free Kasinga only in response to this negative publicity.

Kasinga's case is scheduled to come before the Board of Immigration Appeals on May 2, and is expected to set a precedent for women hoping to escape female genital mutilation by seeking asylum in this country.

As growing numbers of Africans migrate to the United States, awareness in this country of the ritual of female genital mutilation--common in some parts of Africa--has steadily increased. While some defend the practice as a cultural tradition deserving of respect, many others denounce it as an especially brutal form of child abuse. In the October, 1995, issue of The Atlantic Monthly, Linda Burstyn addressed the issue in "Female Circumcision Comes to America," describing the efforts of one highly committed activist, an immigrant from Ethopia who underwent the ritual herself as a child, to combat the practice among African immigrants in America.

Related Links

  • FGM Research Home Page
    This resource assesses the practice of FGM from a variety of perspectives: psychological, cultural, sexual, and human rights.

Copyright © 1996 by The Atlantic Monthly Company. All rights reserved.
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