Alima Traore should be granted asylum at once, and U.S. opposition to this practice -- so often justified by reference to Islamic teaching -- made clear. "Woman from Mali who underwent circumcision fights for asylum," by Stephen Manning for Associated Press (thanks to MT):
SILVER SPRING, Md. (AP) - Alima Traore doesn't remember when part of her genitals was removed as a young child in her native Mali. But even at 29, she still lives with the consequences.
There's the pain, the fear of future medical problems, and a persistent feeling that she has been robbed of an important element of being a woman.
"It is like some part of you is taken away. I don't feel complete at all," she said of the practice, meant to suppress sexual desires and maintain the honor of young girls. "A woman is complete when you have all parts of your body."
Traore, whose student visa expired, now faces deportation and the unsavory prospect of submitting to an arranged marriage with her first cousin if she returns home to Mali in West Africa.
She claims the procedure she underwent, often referred to as female genital mutilation or female circumcision, is proof that she will suffer in Mali. She says the common practice is an example of a society where men dominate women.
But her petitions for asylum have so far been rejected by immigration courts and the Justice Department, which on April 14 denied her request for reconsideration. Traore has also filed an appeal with the federal Fourth Circuit of Appeals, a case that remains open.
An immigration appeals court wrote in November that while female genital mutilation was "reprehensible," Traore had not proven the act was evidence that she would suffer further harm in Mali. The court concluded that like the loss of a limb, it was a one-time act that could not be repeated, and did not constitute a threat of continued harm.
According to a February statement from 10 United Nations agencies, between 100 million to 140 million women and girls have had the procedure done, most in African countries.
A State Department report released in 2007 estimates that 95 percent of adult women in Mali, a nation of roughly 12 million people, have undergone female genital mutilation. However, rates have declined under recent government efforts to eliminate the practice.
In recent months, several members of Congress have sent letters to Attorney General Michael Mukasey, asking him to intervene. Traore's federal appeal lists a long roster of supporters, including doctors and women's rights groups.
Meanwhile, Traore is in limbo while her case continues. She had planned to become a nurse, but she can't go to school without a student visa.
If she has to return to Mali, she will, but she doesn't want to be forced into marriage, especially with a close relative. If she had a daughter, Traore said, the child would likely be circumcised as well.
Going home would mean losing the freedom to choose for herself, she said.
"I am going to be a slave again," she said.