Monday, November 30, 2009
Nine villages in Mali ban female circumcision, and celebrate this in a solemn ceremony; a future bride in Ethiopia proclaims in public that she and her fiancé are happy that she has not been circumcised.
More and more men and women in Africa are saying ‘no” to the genital mutilation of their daughters, as a result of effective local interventions that have helped break ancestral taboos.
The incidence of female genital mutilation (FGM) is even regressing in Ethiopia, Guinea, Niger and Sudan, says Berhane Ras-Work, who has been fighting it for the past 25 years. Berhane Ras-Work is the Executive director of the Inter-African Committee (IA) on traditional practices, based in Addis Ababa. "I'm salima"
In Sudan, women are taking a positive approach to the phenomenon. Nafisa Nedri refuses to say that she is “not circumcised”. Instead, she says ‘I’m salima”. Her 19-year old daughter is salima too. Salima means “whole, intact” in Arabic.
“I fought for my daughter. I had to take a very strong stance and teach her to do the same whenever she’s bullied or called names because she’s not circumcised,” says Ms. Nedri.
Wearing stunning red, green and yellow shawls, their message is to celebrate the beauty of the female body left intact. Members of the "salima" campaign joined an international conference on FGM this week in the Netherlands.
“Salima is born, she has been created from the Nile water. Salima is a beautiful, happy girl with a smile. She’s the future, ” their theme song goes. 89% of girls in Sudan undergo genital mutilation
Similarly, in Mali, abolitionists dress up young girls in beautiful traditional attire to celebrate the fact that they have remained untouched by the blade, though the battle is far from won. In Sudan, mainly in the North, about 89% of girls are at risk; in Mali, the rate is 85%.
FGM is illegal in 17 African countries and in Europe, although the legislation is rarely enforced. With its important migrant communities, Europe is also trying to come to grips with this practice, with the help of Diaspora organisations. Diaspora organisations Diaspora groups, in order to affirm their identities, sometimes hold on to traditional practices that are slowly being abandoned in their countries of origin. Sometimes, because of exposure to other cultures, they are more progressive than those "back home ".Dutch Deputy health minister Jet Bussemaker, hosting the international delegates at the conference, said that European countries have much to learn from effective campaigns against the genital mutilation of girls in Africa. "The immigrants here should learn about what is happening in their country of origin, in Africa, and that would help them in saying "no" here as well. That’s why I side with my colleague Bert Koenders, Minister for Development Cooperation, to improve this exchange. And then we, in the Netherlands, should ensure that other European countries join in too." The ministers intend to visit Africa next year to examine successful initiatives. Likewise, anti-FGM campaigners in Africa hope they can count on the support of European countries. "You should put more pressure on our leaders, says Berhane Ras-Work. Sometimes they listen more to you than to us".
Crime writer Ruth Rendell is supporting the London Safeguarding Children Board’s efforts to raise awareness of female genital mutilation (FGM).
Baroness Rendell, a high profile campaigner against FGM, spoke at the launch of a resource pack drawn up by the London Safeguarding Children Board. This innovative pack brings together a wide range of existing work into one handy document for the first time, and will be a key tool to help professionals and community groups work together to combat FGM.
The pack is designed for all people who work with children, but especially midwives and other health professionals, teachers, social workers and police officers.
It contains detailed information about FGM, as well as guidelines on how to spot victims of abuse or girls at risk. These include a set of questions for midwives to ask women attending their clinics. There is also advice on how community groups can help to prevent FGM, and information to help professionals discuss the issue with parents and children.
The pack has been completed ahead of the Christmas school holidays, which is a common time for girls to be taken abroad to undergo FGM so they can recover before the start of the new term.
Female genital mutilation, sometimes referred to as female circumcision, involves girls of all ages. It can range from injury to the clitoris through to complete removal of the labia and clitoris which is then sewn up leaving only a tiny opening. It is done without their consent and often carried out in unhygienic conditions with no anaesthetic.
Chair of the London Safeguarding Children Board, Cheryl Coppell said: “Female genital mutilation is a serious form of child abuse, and it’s vital that people are given the support and advice that they need to help end this practice. Young girls are left with the risk of serious infections and infertility and in some tragic cases they die.
“The survivors of this procedure are often left with psychological scars from which they may never recover.
“We have worked closely with all the agencies involved in supporting these women to bring together a number of useful resources and information into one central reference point. We are confident this will be a real help for people who work with children and families who may be affected by female genital mutilation.
“We are committed to offering survivors the support they need as well as preventing other girls from going through the pain and trauma.”
On a national level a cross-government FGM coordinator was appointed in September 2009, to provide a single point of contact for stakeholders in and out of Government and to lead on work on FGM.
Detective Constable Jason Morgan, Metropolitan Police Service (MPS), Project Azure said: “The resource pack is valuable to professionals working in the health, education and wider child protection arena. It gives comprehensive information, advice and guidance that will help to ensure that everything is being done to protect girls from FGM.”
“The MPS will continue to work with all of our partner agencies and other organisations to engage with practising communities with a view to empowering them, with the information they need to challenge this practice from within the community.”
By Sporah Show
FATOUMATA KOUROUMA, Petitioner, v. ERIC H. HOLDER, JR., Attorney General, Respondent.
United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit.
Decided: November 24, 2009.
ARGUED: Kamal M. Nawash, THE NAWASH LAW OFFICE, Washington, D.C., for Petitioner.
Theodore Charles Hirt, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE,
Office of Immigration Litigation, Washington, D.C., for Respondent.
ON BRIEF: Gregory G. Katsas, Assistant Attorney General, Civil Division, Linda S. Wernery, Assistant Director, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Office of Immigration Litigation, Washington, D.C., for Respondent.
Before TRAXLER, Chief Judge, and GREGORY and SHEDD, Circuit Judges.
Petition for review granted and remand awarded by published opinion. Judge Gregory wrote the opinion, in which Chief Judge Traxler and Judge Shedd joined.
GREGORY, Circuit Judge.
Fatoumata Kourouma, a citizen of Guinea, appeals the denial of her application for asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under the Convention Against Torture by the Board of Immigration Appeals ("BIA"). We hold that the BIA's decision denying Kourouma's asylum application on the basis of an adverse credibility finding was not supported by substantial evidence, and that Kourouma has established past persecution in the form of female genital mutilation.
Fatoumata Kourouma is a native and citizen of Guinea who entered the United States on July 7, 2001. At the time of her removal hearing, Kourouma was twenty-six years old. She is of the Malinke Mandingo tribe from the town of Yomou, Guinea. Kourouma attended both primary and secondary school in Yomou and her entire family continues to reside there. At the time of her hearing, Kourouma stated she was working in the United States at a nursing home.
Kourouma testified she decided to come to the United States because, after her marriage to a man her father had given her to, her husband threatened to have her circumcised anew because she had only been partially circumcised before. Kourouma testified that she was circumcised partially, meaning that she had not undergone infibulation, at age seven in 1987.[ 1 ] She has only a vague recollection of the procedure where she was taken with a group of girls of similar age to have the circumcision done. She testified that she has some lingering problems from the circumcision. Kourouma's four sisters are also circumcised.
After her husband demanded that she be recircumcised, Kourouma left Yomou in 2001 and fled to Conakry, the capital of Guinea, along with her daughter. There, she lived with a friend of her mother's. Kourouma departed Conakry when she heard that her husband and her father were looking for her. She believes that were she to return to Guinea, her father and husband would sanction her and have her recircumcised.
Kourouma entered the United States via New York JFK airport using the Malian passport of a woman named Diane Mawa. She received the passport from her mother's friend in Conakry.[ 2 ] She was also given an identification card in the name of Diane Mawa, and she presented a copy of it at the hearing as well. That card, unlike the passport, bore her picture not that of Diane. She testified that once she was in the United States, a friend, Mamadou Bobo Sow, picked her up at the airport, a fact reflected in his affidavit presented to the immigration court.
On March 15, 2002, approximately eight months after her arrival, Kourouma applied for asylum in the United States. She testified that she applied and submitted her affidavit with the help of her first attorney by giving him the original version of her statement in French, and then he had it translated to be part of her asylum application. On December 6, 2002, the Department of Justice served Kourouma with a Notice to Appear alleging removability on two counts: being admitted as a non-immigrant and staying in the United States for a longer time than permitted. On July 8, 2002, the Department of Homeland Security referred the case to an immigration judge. On September 2, 2003, the Department of Justice charged Kourouma with two additional counts of removability: being admitted to the United States at an unknown time and unknown place, and remaining in the United States beyond the time authorized. In the course of a series of removal hearings, Kourouma, through counsel, conceded that she was removable under Counts One, Two, and Four but denied Count Three.
Kourouma's first hearing before the immigration judge was on April 22, 2003. After the initial hearing, there was a series of continuances because Kourouma changed counsel. However, at the time of her final evidentiary hearing, Kourouma was pro se, and the immigration judge declined to continue the case in order to allow her to secure representation. In the course of her evidentiary hearing on April 4, 2007, Kourouma presented the facts as described above, along with several exhibits including copies of her entry documents and Mamadou Bobo Sow's affidavit.[ 3 ] She also introduced a copy of her Guinean passport and her birth certificate to confirm her identity. As background material, Kourouma introduced two country reports on Guinea from the United States State Department which include sections on the prevalence and type of female genital mutilation practiced in Guinea. The State Department's Guinea: Report on Female Genital Mutilation or Female Genital Cutting stated that in 1999, 98.6% of all women living in all of Guinea had experienced some form of circumcision. (J.A. 25.)[ 4 ] To support her testimony regarding her past circumcision, Kourouma presented two doctor's letters to the court. The first, dated May 20, 2002, from Carlos E. Covarrubias, M.D., describes a full physical examination of Kourouma. In it, Dr. Covarrubias, when discussing Kourouma's gynecological exam, stated that she has "scattered linear scarring approximately 0.5-1 cm on upper extremity." (J.A. 28.) At the request of the immigration judge, Kourouma provided another doctor's note to state succinctly whether she had been circumcised or not. To this end, she provided a "Verification of Circumcision" from Oluremi T. Ilupeju, M.D., from an examination on September 7, 2006. (J.A. 27.) Dr. Ilupeju's note stated that he had conducted a gynecological examination on Kourouma and found that she had been circumcised.
During the government's cross-examination, Kourouma was questioned concerning an application for asylum made by another alien which bore strikingly similar language to the affidavit offered by Kourouma to support her application. The wording that appeared identically in both affidavits concerned facts of Kourouma's past circumcision and her fear of returning to Guinea. Kourouma could not explain the similarities in the affidavits beyond stating that she provided her statement to her lawyer in French and he had it translated.
At the conclusion of the hearing, the immigration judge issued her decision, concluding that Kourouma was not credible and denying her application for asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under the Convention Against Torture on the basis of the adverse credibility finding. The judge first found that Kourouma's application for asylum was untimely because she could not determine with sufficient certainty the date when Kourouma entered the country. The judge additionally found that even if considered a timely application, Kourouma had not met her burden to demonstrate eligibility for refugee status because the judge found her to not be credible. The judge was particularly concerned that Kourouma was unable to offer sufficient proof that she was who she claimed to be given that she produced evidence at the hearing which identified her both as Kourouma and as Mawa. The judge chose not to credit the 2003 Guinean passport or birth certificate Kourouma offered as proof of her identity because, in her opinion, they were not sufficiently authenticated or connected specifically to the petitioner. The judge was also concerned with the similarity of Kourouma's affidavit and the previously submitted application, explaining, the "documents speak for themselves." Immigration Judge's Order 14 (J.A. 51). The judge was also concerned with the lack of evidence as to whether Kourouma had been circumcised in the past, the omission of any mention of a fear of future circumcision in her asylum application, and the improbability that if her husband wanted her circumcised again that he would not have done so in the five years they were married and living together. Finally, the judge also found that even if Kourouma had been partially circumcised, that circumcision did not amount to past persecution. Accordingly, the immigration judge denied Kourouma's application.
Kourouma appealed the decision to the BIA. The BIA dismissed her appeal on July 18, 2008, finding Kourouma failed to meet her burden to provide testimony that was believable and sufficiently detailed to provide a coherent, plausible account of her fear of returning to Guinea. In particular, the BIA cited the implausibility of Kourouma's husband not seeking to have her circumcised during their five years of marriage, the lack of any mention of future circumcision in her application for asylum, and the striking similarity between Kourouma's affidavit and that of a prior applicant. The BIA also shared the immigration judge's concern about the lack of corroborating evidence concerning Kourouma's marriage and her date of entry into the United States.[ 5 ] Importantly, however, the BIA did settle the issue of Kourouma's identity when, in summarizing the facts, it stated without qualification that she is a citizen of Guinea. Therefore Kourouma's appeal was dismissed with a renewal of the privilege of voluntary departure. This petition followed.
When the BIA and the immigration judge both issue decisions in a case, we review both decisions upon appeal. Camara v. Ashcroft, 378 F.3d 361, 366 (4th Cir. 2004). This Court reviews those decisions under the substantial evidence standard, affirming the BIA unless "evidence presented was so compelling that no reasonable factfinder could fail to find" eligibility for asylum. INS v. Elias-Zacarias, 502 U.S. 478, 483-84 (1992); Tarvand v. INS, 937 F.2d 973, 975 (4th Cir. 1991) (citing Figeroa v. INS, 886 F.2d 76, 78 (4th Cir. 1989)). In other words, we will uphold the final order of removal of the BIA unless it is "manifestly contrary to law." Gandziami-Mickhou v. Gonzalez, 445 F.3d 351, 354 (4th Cir. 2006) (quoting 8 U.S.C. § 1252(b)(4)(C) (2004)). In conducting its review of the case, the BIA may defer to the immigration judge who had a chance to see the testimony, Rusu v. INS, 296 F.3d 316, 323 (4th Cir. 2002), and facts found by the BIA are conclusive unless "any reasonable adjudicator would be compelled to find to the contrary." Dankam v. Gonzalez, 495 F.3d 113, 119 (4th Cir. 2007) (quoting 8 U.S.C. § 1252(b)(4)(B)). A credibility determination by the BIA is considered a factual determination. Camara, 378 F.3d at 367 (citing Figeroa, 886 F.2d at 78).
Applying this standard to the case before us, we hold that the immigration judge's and BIA's decisions finding Kourouma incredible and denying her asylum application was not supported by substantial evidence. Indeed, Kourouma has established that she suffered past persecution and has the presumption of a well-founded fear of future persecution.
An alien applying for asylum has the burden to prove that "either he or she has suffered past persecution or . . . he or she has a well-founded fear of future persecution."[ 6 ] 8 C.F.R. § 208.13(a) & (b). An alien's well-founded fear of future persecution has both objective and subjective components; he or she must prove a subjective fear that a reasonable person in like circumstances would share. Chen v. INS, 195 F.3d 198, 201-02 (4th Cir. 1999). To carry his or her burden to prove eligibility for asylum, an alien must "present candid, credible, and sincere testimony demonstrating a genuine fear of persecution." Li v. Gonzalez, 405 F.3d 171, 176 (4th Cir. 2005) (quoting Chen, 195 F.3d at 201). Thus, the petitioner bears the burden to provide both "candid, credible and sincere testimony demonstrating a genuine fear of persecution" as well as "specific, concrete facts that a reasonable person in like circumstances would fear persecution." Chen, 195 F.3d at 202. Where an alien establishes past persecution, it is presumed that he or she has a well-founded fear of persecution which the government must rebut. 8 C.F.R. § 208.13(b)(1).
In this case, the immigration judge denied Kourouma's application, and the BIA affirmed the denial, not on the merits of whether she had demonstrated past persecution, but rather because her testimony and supporting documentary evidence were not credible. Kourouma argues upon appeal that she has met her burden to provide clear, believable, and convincing testimony on the basis of her grounds for asylum. More specifically, she argues that she offered sufficient corroboration such that her testimony should have been considered credible, especially given the resolution of the issue of her identity. The government argues to the contrary that the immigration judge's adverse credibility finding is supported by substantial evidence and should be affirmed because there were multiple other reasons besides the issue of her identity that led to the denial of her application.
In making an adverse credibility determination, the court must state specific cogent reasons for why it finds the testimony incredible, although it need not give extensive reasoning on why each piece of the applicant's testimony was rejected. Tewabe v. Gonzalez, 446 F.3d 533, 538 (4th Cir. 2004). The same standard applies to documentary evidence, as the immigration judge cannot reject documentary evidence without specific, cogent reasons why the documents are not credible. See Zahedi v. INS, 222 F.3d 1157, 1165 (9th Cir. 2000). In determining credibility, the immigration judge, and consequently the BIA, must take into account both the petitioner's testimony and his or her corroborating evidence, whether documentary or testimonial, In re. A-S, 21 I. & N. Dec. 1106, 1112 (BIA 1998), and thus may not deny asylum merely on the basis of incredible testimony without considering any corroborating evidence. See Camara, 378 F.3d at 370. This Circuit requires that the evidence offered as corroborating evidence be objective in order for it to be considered by the immigration judge and BIA. See Gandziami-Mickhou, 445 F.3d at 358-59 (explaining the type of corroborating evidence in Camara—official records and government reports—was objective evidence while the evidence offered by petitioner—letters from family—was not). Importantly, the strict rules of evidence do not apply to immigration hearings, though they may guide an immigration judge in determining admissibility. Anim v. Mukasey, 535 F.3d 243, 256 (4th Cir. 2008) (citing Alexandrov v. Gonzalez, 442 F.3d 395, 404 (6th Cir. 2006)).
Reviewing both the BIA and the immigration judge's decisions in this case, we find the denial of Kourouma's application for lack of credibility was not supported by substantial evidence. First, the main reason for the immigration judge's denial of Kourouma's application was that her identity could not be confirmed so that the immigration judge could consider the merits of her case. The BIA, however, differed with the immigration judge on the issue of Kourouma's identity. The first page of the BIA's decision states, "The respondent is a native and citizen of Guinea." BIA Order 1 (J.A. 2). The BIA further did not mention any of the other questions about her identity—the passports or identity card—that had so troubled the immigration judge. Thus, this Court in reviewing the appellate record accepts the BIA's finding of Kourouma's identity as supported by substantial evidence.
The finding that Kourouma was who she stated she was in her hearing before the immigration judge bolsters her credibility overall as it relates to her testimony. The fact that her identity could not be confirmed was the basis upon which the immigration judge found the rest of her documentary evidence incredible including her passports, I-94 arrival documentation, and birth certificate. With that evidence now established as credible, it certainly supports her other contentions, in particular the usefulness of the State Department Country Report for Guinea. In the course of the hearing, the immigration judge did acknowledge that she had received into evidence both the State Department Country Report on Guinea and the State Department Report on Female Genital Mutilation in Guinea, yet she did not explicitly mention or consider either in her credibility determination. The BIA did not mention whether it had received or considered the country reports. While country reports are not conclusive evidence that the petitioner in particular had been circumcised, they are important background evidence that the immigration judge and BIA should consider when evaluating both credibility and the merits of the case. See Gomis v. Holder, 571 F.3d 353, 360 (4th Cir. 2009) (discussing and applying the facts contained in the country report presented by the petitioner as evidence of the conditions she would face if she returned to Senegal). Because the BIA established that Kourouma was indeed a citizen of Guinea, the country report she submitted about conditions there should have been considered.
Looking to the country report itself, its contents corroborate Kourouma's testimony. The June 2001 State Department report entitled Guinea: Report of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and Female Genital Cutting (FGC) noted that in Guinea, 98.6% of women of all tribes and geographical locations had undergone female genital mutilation. (J.A. 25.) Additionally, the report states that in middle Guinea, the location of the town of Yomou, Dalaba, the average age of circumcision is between ages four and eight. (Id.) Thus, while the report alone cannot be conclusive evidence that Kourouma herself had undergone female genital mutilation, it certainly supports her contention that at age seven she was circumcised.
The immigration judge was similarly cavalier about the reliability of the two doctors' notes that Kourouma presented with her claim. While the first was less than clear as to where the scarring noted was located, Kourouma's second letter entitled "Verification of Circumcision" from Dr. Oluremi T. Ilupeju was quite clear, stating "A thorough gynecological examination revealed that this patient" "had been circumcised." (J.A. 27.) The immigration judge declined to consider the second letter on the basis that the letter was not notarized. However, as stated above, the rules of evidence do not apply strictly in administrative adjudications of immigration cases, and here the immigration judge could offer no other reason why the letter should not be considered. An immigration judge cannot reject documentary evidence anymore than testimonial evidence without specific, cogent reasons why the documents are not credible. Zahedi, 222 F.3d at 1165. The mere assertion that a document is not notarized without noting any further indicia of unreliability is certainly not a sufficient reason for rejecting it as incredible. Thus, the two doctor's notes submitted by Kourouma substantially support her testimony.
Kourouma's identity was not the sole reason for the adverse credibility determination, but the additional reasons are similarly not supported by substantial evidence. First, both the immigration judge and the BIA expressed concern that Kourouma's affidavit supporting her application had substantially similar language to the affidavit of another asylum petitioner. The similar application was received into evidence and the immigration judge considered it. However, in articulating her reasons why the application undermined Kourouma's credibility, the immigration judge stated merely, "The documents speak for themselves," and the BIA repeated this language. Immigration Judge's Order 14 (J.A. 51). This is exactly the type of reasoning our decision in Camara directed the immigration courts to avoid where we stated that an immigration judge must state "specific, cogent" reasons for the negative credibility finding. 378 F.3d at 367. Here the immigration judge made no statement as to why the affidavits had a negative impact on Kourouma's credibility other than her conclusory statement akin to "I know it when I see it." Further, there was no allegation on the record that Kourouma had committed fraud in submitting her affidavit. This Court could attempt to infer why the affidavit supports a negative credibility finding, but that is not our task. Finally, there was no finding as to which affidavit came first, Kourouma's or the other petitioner's. Thus, the fact of similarity alone can have no effect on Kourouma's credibility.
Second, the immigration judge and the BIA found that Kourouma's failure to mention her fear of future circumcision in her asylum application rendered her testimony and the statements in the application not credible. In an earlier case, we held that omissions, inconsistent statements, and contradictory evidence are all cogent reasons that support an adverse credibility finding. Dankham, 495 F.3d at 121 (quoting Tewabe, 446 F.3d at 538). Further, those omissions and inconsistencies which go to the heart of an asylum seeker's claim are greater cause for concern than those which are peripheral. Id. at 122. However, the BIA and immigration judge were not entirely on point when they concluded that Kourouma had omitted the core of her asylum claim. In her affidavit, Kourouma stated that at age seven she was forced by her father to undergo female genital mutilation. While the BIA and immigration judge were right in pointing to the fact that she did not specifically mention that she feared further mutilation at the hands of her husband, this omission does not matter when her past mutilation is sufficient to give a basis for her asylum claim. Barry, 445 F.3d at 745.
Finally, the immigration judge and the BIA were concerned with the lack of corroboration of Kourouma's marriage and the implausibility that she would have lived with her husband for five years without him acting on his promise to circumcise her further. We do not consider the lack of corroboration of these facts because these facts are unimportant given the amount of evidence Kourouma offered pertaining to her past circumcision. The fact that the immigration judge and BIA found her story of her marriage and vengeful husband incredible has no bearing in this case on whether she has established past persecution in the form of female genital mutilation at age seven.
Therefore, looking to both Kourouma's testimony and corroborating evidence as required by our decision in Camara, we find that the immigration judge's and BIA's decisions rejecting Kourouma's credibility were not supported by substantial evidence. Once Kourouma's identity was established by the BIA, the BIA should have considered the country reports on Guinea as support for her claim of female genital mutilation. Further, there was no specific and cogent reason for the rejection of both of Kourouma's doctors' letters. The remainder of the immigration judge's and the BIA's reasons had no persuasive bearing on her credibility because the evidence discounted by BIA and immigration judge had no impact on her eligibility for asylum for past persecution. Considering the documentary evidence and Kourouma's testimony, this Court can find little evidence to support a negative credibility finding. We therefore reverse the decision of the BIA as not supported by substantial evidence.
Even though the immigration judge and BIA dismissed Kourouma's application on the basis of her lack of credibility, our discussion of the case need not end there. Based on the evidence before us, we hold that Kourouma has demonstrated past persecution sufficient to make out a prima facie case of qualification for asylum.
It is well-settled in this Circuit that female genital mutilation constitutes persecution within the meaning of the Immigration and Naturalization Act. See Haoua v. Gonzalez, 472 F.3d 227, 231-32 (4th Cir. 2007) (citing Barry, 445 F.3d at 745). Once a petitioner has satisfactorily proven that she has been or will be subject to female genital mutilation, she has made a prima facie case that she is entitled to asylum and the burden shifts to the government. Barry, 445 F.3d at 745. If the government can demonstrate that the petitioner can avoid persecution, then she is not eligible for asylum. Haoua, 472 F.3d at 232.
As an initial issue, the immigration judge in her decision indicated that even if Kourouma had shown that she was partially circumcised as she alleged in her testimony, that partial circumcision would not be sufficient to constitute past persecution under asylum law. The BIA did not rule on this issue either way. It is clear under our past precedent that any of the methods used to conduct female genital mutilation, including clitoridectomy, excision or infibulation, would satisfy the requirements for past persecution. See World Health Organization, Female Genital Mutilation: A Handbook for Frontline Workers 13 (2000) (detailing methods of female genital mutilation). This Circuit has found that female genital mutilation constitutes past persecution, not because of any particular method of conducting it, but rather because of the serious mental and physical harm it inflicts on the women who endure it. Barry, 445 F.3d at 745 (citing Mohammed v. Gonzales, 400 F.3d 785, 795 (9th Cir. 2005); Abay v. Ashcroft, 368 F.3d 634, 638 (6th Cir. 2004) ("Forced female genital mutilation involves the infliction of grave harm constituting persecution on account of membership in a particular social group that can form the basis of a successful claim for asylum."); Abankwah v. INS, 185 F.3d 18, 23 (2d Cir. 1999) ("That FGM involves the infliction of grave harm constituting persecution under Section 101(a)(42)(A) of the Act, 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(42)(A) (1994), is not disputed here.")). Thus, if Kourouma can demonstrate that she was subject to female genital mutilation in any form, she has met her burden to prove past persecution.
As discussed above, the doctors' notes presented by Kourouma at her hearing stated that she had been circumcised in the past. The government offered no rebuttal evidence and did not cross examine Kourouma as to those letters, and the immigration judge discounted the letters for hypertechnical evidentiary reasons. See Secaida-Rosales v. INS, 331 F.3d 297, 311 (2d Cir. 2003) (holding that the immigration judge's requirement that petitioner provide extensive medical records was "too stringent of a standard" for corroborating evidence) (superseded by statute on other grounds as stated in Xiu Xia Lin v. Mukasey, 534 F.3d 162, 163-64 (2d Cir. 2008)). Thus, there is no evidence in the record which contradicts the clear statement by Dr. Ilupeju that Kourouma had been circumcised. Combined with the State Department Report that 98.6% of women in Guinea had been circumcised, this is convincing evidence that Kourouma, as she testified, had been circumcised. Therefore, because this Circuit accepts that female genital mutilation may provide the basis of an asylum application, we hold that Kourouma has established past persecution and has a presumption of a well-founded fear of future persecution
In sum, this Court finds that Kourouma provided believable, corroborated testimony which demonstrated that she had been subject to female genital mutilation. Pursuant to the foregoing, we grant Kourouma's petition for review insofar as it challenges the denial of her application for asylum, and we vacate the BIA and immigration judge's orders with regard thereto. Finally, we remand the case to the BIA for such further proceedings as may be necessary to take evidence and hear argument as to the question of Kourouma's fear of future persecution.
Deputy Health Minister Jet Bussemaker appointed ‘ambassadors’ against female genital mutilation today at an international conference on the practice in The Hague.
The ambassadors, drawn from African communities in the Netherlands, will pass on information on the dangers of female genital mutilation to parents who originally come from countries where the custom is practiced, such as Somalia, Ethiopia and Sudan.
In a TV interview on Tuesday, Ms Bussemaker stressed that apart from causing terrible pain, female genital mutilation, also referred to as female circumcision or genital cutting, deprives women of their sexuality and carries grave lifelong health risks.
African success She said the government plans to call in help from African countries such as Senegal to help eradicate female genital mutilation in the Netherlands, in what she describes as “reverse development cooperation”. According to the deputy minister, while some African countries had taken great strides in stamping out the practice, immigrants in the Netherlands sometimes remained more conservative in retaining the custom than people in their homeland.At the conference in The Hague, headed ‘Uniting Europe and Africa to fight Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting,’ one of the key speakers was Berhane-Ras Work of the Inter-African Committee, who gave a presentation on African projects that have been successful in combating the custom. Contract Ms Bussemaker also used the conference as a platform to launch a scheme after a French model whereby parents from high-risk countries are invited to sign a contract in which they undertake not to subject their daughters to genital mutilation. The scheme is aimed at helping parents resist pressure from relatives by showing them the signed contract. It states that female genital mutilation is illegal in the Netherlands, and the parents risk prosecution if they allow it to be performed on their daughters.
The Dutch government has launched a national campaign against female genital mutilation, “Say no to FGM”.
Also known as female circumcision, FGM was relatively unknown in Europe before its introduction by migrant communities. It is a practice in which external female genital organs are either altered, injured, or removed, for reasons related to culture, religion, or both.
According to the World Health Organization, about three million girls risk being submitted to this procedure every year in Africa. FGM can cause severe bleeding, and later complications in childbirth.
Better statistics in Africa
Speaking to national and international experts in The Hague on Wednesday, Dutch Deputy Health Minister, Jet Bussemaker, said that her government had no reliable statistics on the prevalence or FGM in the Netherlands.
It is known to be widespread in the Somali community, one of the largest migrant groups in The Netherlands.
“We know that 97% of women in Somalia have been genitally mutilated, she said. “But does this also mean that 97% of the Somali women living in the Netherlands are affected by this practice? Hard figures are not available.” Dutch obstetricians have reported that around 40 percent of women from countries where FGM is practiced have been genitally mutilated.
African countries, she added, have a clearer picture of the situation (see table below) with more reliable statistics.
Reverse development cooperation
The “ Say no to FGM” campaign will widen the approach that the government believes has been successful in pilot programs in six Dutch cities. It involves informing health professionals and targeting groups and families that are at risk. FGM is illegal in the Netherlands and subject to criminal prosecution.
Ms. Zahra Naleie, from the Federation of Somali Associations in the Netherlands, said at the conference that as a result of this concerted approach, the problem of FGM is now being discussed openly within the African community. The practice has also been explicitly condemned by community leaders.
Ms. Bussemaker and Dutch Minister for Development Cooperation Bert Koenders intend to visit African countries in 2010 in order to learn from successful campaigns to combat female circumcisions on the continent.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
At least 350 teenage girls are to be circumcised in the next two weeks in Marakwet East and Pokot Central districts.
A pre-initiation ceremony known as kitung’a will take place in Kapsiren village, Koibirir location, on the Friday that schools are to close.
A source from the provincial administration and several primary school teachers told the Nation at Tot trading centre on Tuesday that according to cultural beliefs, the stars, prevailing weather patterns, and other key elements had signalled that the initiations should go on in the next two weeks.
About 120 girls aged between nine and 16 years are to undergo the rite in Endow, Kaben, and Koibirir locations while 60 others are targeted in Cheptulel in Marakwet.
In the neighbouring Lomut and Arpolo sub-locations in Pokot Central, more than 150 girls will undergo the cut.
Koibirir chief Alfrick Lorem said the teenagers are to be initiated during the December holidays.
The initiations come amid stern warnings by the government that perpetrators would be prosecuted. Human rights activists have also threatened to sue the perpetrators of the outlawed practice.
Separately, three married women were circumcised on Tuesday in Chepkwawai village in Chebororwa location, Marakwet West District.
According to anti-female genital mutilation crusaders, one of the women claimed that she was forced to undergo the rite or face excommunication by the society and divorce by her husband. The other two admitted that they had consented to be circumcised.
Marakwet East district commissioner Joseph Kisangau put FGM practitioners in the district on notice.
“We have instructed chiefs to be on the look-out throughout the December holiday. Should anyone circumcise a girl or woman, they will be arrested and prosecuted,” he warned.
Marakwet West district children’s officer Peter Kutere said the government had criminalised forced circumcision of girls and warned parents that they risked being jailed if their daughters underwent the rite.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Monday, November 23, 2009
With A Vision of Human Dignity for All, 404 Communities in Bounkling, Senegal Announce Abandonment of Female Genital Cutting
Campaign against female genital mutilation, fund raising with the support of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
A gala evening in support of the campaign against female genital mutilation. The event, held on Tuesday 17 November at Villa Letizia in Rome, was organised by the NGO No Peace without Justice, founded by Vice President of the Senate Emma Bonino, and thanks to the support of Anna Ventutini Fendi and Minister for Foreign Affairs Franco Frattini, Minister for Equal Opportunity Mara Carfagna and Mayor of Rome Giovanni Alemanno, under the High Patronage of the President of the Republic Giorgio Napolitano.
The initiative, entitled “For a world with no violence against women and children”, was linked with the G8 meeting on violence against women held at the foreign ministry in Rome on 9 November, developing the by now essential concept public/private partnership from the point of view of enlarged development cooperation.
In the struggle against the scourge of female genital mutilation, the Vice President of the Senate stressed, “major results have been achieved, and Minister for Foreign Affairs Franco Frattini’s commitment to a UN initiative has been decisive to this human rights issue. We of No Peace without Justice have done and will continue to do everything possible, but it is important that all of us do our part”.
Friday, November 20, 2009
By African Press Agency
Thursday, November 19, 2009
By Children & Young People Now
London teachers, health visitors and the police are among professionals in line to receive multi-agency guidance on female genital mutilation (FGM).
The guidance, which has been developed by the London Safeguarding Children Board, is the culmination of a year-long project that explored how to protect children and young people at risk of suffering FGM.
It also suggests how workers can broach the subject by offering professionals a template for how to question a child or young person at risk of FGM.
The resource pack will be launched on 26 November at a school in the London borough of Southwark.
Research carried out in 2007 that found up to 24,000 girls under the age of 15 were at risk of FGM.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Monday, November 16, 2009
Friday, November 13, 2009
|November 11, 2009 By Daniel Edyegu and Rashid Muzungyo - The New Vision|
Leaders from Kapchorwa district have asked Parliament to revise some sections of the of female genital mutilation (FGM) Bill. Nelson Chelimo, the LC5 chairperson, said Section 4 of the Bill, that subjects a convict to 10 years imprisonment for carrying out self mutilation, was aggressive. "Most women who carry out self mutilation do it out of social pressure. Some Sabiny communities believe that uncircumcised women could encounter difficulty in getting suitors. So Parliament should be lenient in enacting this section to avoid an unjust penalty" he said.
Chelimo argued that Section 2 of the Bill that subjects a convict to a 10-year-imprisonment for carrying out FGM is hostile and not applicable to the local community. He proposed that the penalty be lessened to five years. Patrick Cheptoyek, the Reproductive Health Uganda district chairperson, said Section 6, that sentences an offender who abets, coerces, threatens, induces or participates in events that lead to FGM to five-year imprisonment, should be clearly defined. The leaders called for the review during a consultative meeting with the parliamentary committee on gender, labour and social development at Kok Hall in Kapchorwa town council on Monday. The parliamentary team, led by Beatrice Lagada (Oyam) was on a four-day consultative tour of Kapchorwa, Bukwo, Amudat and Nakapiripirit districts to seek views of the people on the Bill.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
"I call on all African states to cooperate on all levels in order to speed up the elimination of the practice of female genital mutilation," Compoare told delegates at an international conference on the subject.
Monday, November 9, 2009
NIGERIAN MOTHER Pamela Izevbekhai has told the Supreme Court a sworn statement from a doctor asserting she never had a child who died as a result of complications from female genital mutilation (FGM) is untrue. She claims she has a certificate from another doctor to prove the child’s death.
Representing herself in court yesterday after her lawyers withdrew after receiving a threatening anonymous postcard, Ms Izevbekhai said her first child Elizabeth died in July 1994 and she had obtained evidence from another doctor certifying this.
Her case was before the court yesterday after an application by the State to have her entire appeal against the deportation of herself and her two daughters dismissed as an abuse of court process.
This application was adjourned but she unsuccessfully opposed the State’s application to admit additional affidavits containing new evidence disputing her case.
She said the affidavits were not true and that she had no knowledge that a previous affidavit and death certificate submitted on her behalf were forged. Those affidavits include one by Dr Joseph Unakajo, a Nigerian gynaecologist, whose name was used to support a death certificate and FGM allegations concerning Elizabeth during earlier hearings of Ms Izevbekhai’s asylum application.
In the affidavit, sworn after Irish officials travelled to Nigeria to investigate the case further, Dr Unakajo said Ms Izevbekhai’s first child was born in 2000 and she did not have a child prior to this. He said she tried to get him to issue a certificate in relation to Elizabeth but he refused. In an affidavit from Irish Embassy official Cormac McHenry, he said he went last February to a government office in Nigeria, from which the original death certificate (used in Ms Izevbekhai’s asylum application) was allegedly issued, and found no such certificate on file there.
Ms Izevbekhai, in a replying affidavit, rejected the claim that she gave birth to her first child in 2000. The death certificate she originally supplied was obtained through a friend and she did not accept it was forged, she said.
Addressing the court, Ms Izevbekhai said Dr Unakajo was there at the death of her child while a Dr E Ori later carried out a postmortem. She had since obtained a death certificate from Dr Ori. She said her credibility was being affected because Nigeria’s chief justice and the Nigerian ambassador said she was causing embarrassment to their country.
The United Nations has taken a surprising lead in publicly advocating for an end to the practice, in which a girl or woman's clitoris and sometimes surrounding vaginal areas are cut away to make her "more marriageable." The World Health Organization estimates that about 100 million to 140 million women worldwide have been subjected to FGM. The practice is most prevalent in Africa but also occurs among immigrants in Europe, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States. Genital cutting is also reported in India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Iraq, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Yemen. According to Unicef, about 3 million girls are at risk of being mutilated each year, some in infancy, in countries where the prevalence of the practice can be as high as 90 percent. In August the Population Fund, UNFPA, published a technical report on the scope of the practice.
There is often more action internationally than in the United States to curb the practice, although 17 American states have passed laws against the procedure since it began to appear in immigrant communities. In the United States, an analysis of census data by the African Women's Health Center at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston shows that (based on families' countries of origin) more than nearly 228,000 females have been or are at risk of being subjected to FGM, with more than 38,000 of them in California and nearly 26,000 in New York State. Only one person in the United States, an Ethiopian-born resident of Georgia, has gone to jail, charged with cruelty after he cut off his 2-year-old daughter's clitoris with scissors.
On November 3, Equality Now will kick off a campaign in the United States to refocus attention on FGM, with Meryl Streep appearing as a spokeswoman for the cause at the first screening of the documentary Africa Rising. That screening, at NYU, sold out weeks in advance, but it will be followed by programs on the West Coast and in Boston.
By early next year a distribution agreement with Women Make Movies, a multicultural feminist nonprofit, should make the documentary, featuring activists from Africa and international rights organizations, widely available to any group interested in presenting a program on the issue.
Bien-Aimé said that from the beginning in the early 1990s, Equality Now, which also campaigns against sex tourism and trafficking in the United States, followed the lead of grassroots activists against FGM in Africa at a time when the subject was taboo in the United States. "We met with and were actually fascinated by the work of individuals who were literally risking their lives to talk about female genital mutilation, to break the silence and raise awareness," Bien-Aimé observes.
Equality Now stepped in to help forge a network and give it an international platform, but the programs and pace were always left to the people on the scene, men as well as women. In 2000 a fund was created to funnel support to the local groups. A newsletter, Awaken, is published in English, French and Arabic.
Many of the women who have been helped in their advocacy were survivors of the practice. "They were indigenous to their communities," Bien-Aimeé said. "They know best how to address the issue."
"Just the fact that FGM is now a household word is an enormous success," she said. "Fifteen of twenty-eight African countries have laws; an African protocol on the rights of women is the first legal instrument mandating governments to legislate against FGM."
But the practice goes on, and resistance to the prohibition of FGM has led to increasingly younger girls being cut on the apparent theory that this will pass unnoticed. During the political upheaval in Kenya in 2008, while police forces were overstretched or in disarray, mass cuttings were reported. Equality Now heard of the forcible cutting of about 600 girls in the Kenyan city of Eldoret during the school Christmas break.
Bien-Aimé said that last year in Burkina Faso, where there is a hot line to report cases, about 200 infants were rushed to hospitals after being subjected to the practice. FGM, apart from causing girls to bleed to death and eliminating sexual pleasure from the lives of survivors, can lead to high levels of infection and disease, later difficult births and maternal deaths.
The resistance to ending FGM or creating less harmful rites of passage for girls is not confined to developing countries. "For reasons that I don't understand, there's this resurgence of debate around 'rites or rights' in this country," Bien-Aimé said. "It's extremely disturbing." Campaigns against the practice are being challenged on cultural sensitivity by anthropologist and other academics. Some leading American anthropologists, including Richard Shweder of the University of Chicago and Bettina Shell-Duncan, a specialist in biocultural and medical anthropology at the University of Washington, argue that activists who advocate against genital cutting tend to overemphasize the most harmful versions of the practice and fail to appreciate the importance of this rite in many families and communities, where damage to a girl or young woman may be slight.
FGM has fallen off the radar of many health officials. "What is the CDC doing, what is Health and Human Services doing?" Bien-Aimé asked. By comparison, Britain, Sweden and France have special programs in immigrant communities.
"It is critically important for voices from the ground to be heard now," she said.
Barbara Crossette, United Nations correspondent for The Nation magazine, is a former New York Times correspondent and bureau chief in Asia and at the UN.
Thursday, November 5, 2009
FGM is a common practice in the districts of Kapochorwa, Bukwo, Moroto, Nakapiripirit and it is carried out during even years. FGM involves all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external womanhood without medical recommendation or for non-therapeutic reasons.
The government is working through the ministry of Gender, Labor and Social Development to wipe out the practice. Honorable Nakadaama Rukia the minister of state for Gender and Cultural affairs said that a total sum of 30,000 dollars has been put in place to eliminate the practice. The money would be used in the formation of a national alliance to oversee the development of ending the practice. The announcement was made by Nakadama Rukia during a presentation on the abandonment initiative of FGM in Uganda at Imperial Royale hotel, Kampala, on November 3rd. The government wants this process to be very fast and has set a deadline of 2012 for eliminating the practice in Uganda [...].
Various organizations like UNICEF, UNFPA support the government on this initiative because it will improve the status of women in the affected areas. Jane Babiiha Alisemera the MP for Bundibugyo district said that these women suffer from all sorts of complications which could have both long or short term effects. She cited complications like hemorrhaging (which can lead to death), pain or shock, infertility, fistulae, and sexual complications, among others.
Dora Byamukama a member of the East African Legislative Assembly said that the government had come up with the initiative to prohibit and criminalize FGM and to provide the necessary legislation to do so under the principle that citizens’ bodies are state property.
[This article ends with an open question to the readers:] What do our readers think of this campaign? Is 30,000 dollars (Shs 60m) enough to wipeout the practice in all of Uganda? Is it just a matter of education or something more?
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
By Barbara Crosette
For a couple of decades, a small, underfunded nonprofit organization in New York called Equality Now has bolstered community groups in Africa that are making steady progress against the painful and destructive practice of female genital mutilation (FGM). But there is concern that an Equality Now-led campaign that has cost an unknown number of advocates their lives is meeting new resistance not only in traditional societies but also among Western anthropologists and other cultural apologists who put a higher value on a harmful practice than on the well-being of girls. Taina Bien-Aimé, Equality Now's executive director, calls it a "rites or rights" dilemma.
The United Nations has taken a surprising lead in publicly advocating for an end to the practice, in which a girl or woman's clitoris and sometimes surrounding vaginal areas are cut away to make her "more marriageable.
The goal is to give a safe place to stay to girls while staff members mediate with the girls' families. In the best cases staff members succed in offering an alternative rite of passage and helping the reunification of girls with their families without the need for them to undergo female genital cutting.
Please follow the link to the VDay photo slide to view pictures of the Safe House in Kenya.
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
By The Point
By EthioPlanet staff
In a series of celebrations that mark a profound and historic watershed, tens of thousands of people converged on Durame town from October 29 to 31 to celebrate the virtual eradication of female genital mutilation (FGM) in the zones of Kembatta and Tembaro in the Southern Nations Nationalities and Peoples Regional State.
According to local non-governmental organisation, Kembatti Mentti Gezzimma-Tope (KMG), the virtual elimination of this harmful traditional practice suggests that well over 100,000 girls have been spared in this region, reversing in a single decade a practice so old some Christians and Muslims here mistakenly believed it was mandated by their religions.
“We called it ‘getting the dirt out,’ but we never said it out loud, because it was taboo,” said Bogaletch Gebre, founder chief executive officer of KMG, who returned to Kembatta, her birth place, in 1997, to start the NGO that would fight for the human rights of women and improve the environment for all people in the region.