Female Genital Mutilation as Persecution: When Can It Constitute a Basis for Asylum and Withholding of Removal? [Updated October 10, 2008]   [open pdf - 159KB]

This CRS report examines female genital mutilation as a basis for asylum. "Female genital mutilation (FGM) encompasses a wide range of procedures which involve the removal or alteration of a woman's and girl's genitalia. The federal courts and the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) have classified FGM as a form of persecution, a showing of which can act as a basis for a successful asylum or withholding of removal claim. However, there was a split between the federal courts and the BIA over the treatment of applicants who have already been subjected to FGM. The federal courts that have addressed this issue have held that a past infliction of FGM creates a presumption of a well-founded fear of future persecution, which is a prerequisite for refugee status, and also a clear probability of future harm, a requirement for obtaining withholding of removal. The BIA, on the other hand, has rejected this position in In re A-T-, arguing that FGM can be inflicted only once, which means that an applicant cannot have a well-founded fear or present a clear probability of FGM happening again in the future. Thus, under the BIA interpretation, the past infliction of FGM, a form of past persecution, rather than creating a presumption of a well-founded fear of future persecution, rebuts the presumption. The BIA has stated, however, that while a past infliction of FGM cannot act as a basis for a well-founded fear of future persecution, a past infliction of FGM, if sufficiently severe, can act as a basis for an asylum claim on humanitarian grounds."

Report Number:
CRS Report for Congress, RL34587
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