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(en) Ireland, Workers Solidarity #83 - Deported to be Mutilated? Make Female Genital Mutilation Grounds for Asylum

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Sun, 19 Dec 2004 07:36:12 +0100 (CET)

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The Irish government is currently trying to deport women and children
under the threat of female genital mutilation (FGM), which frequently
results in death. Asylum in Ireland can be sought on the grounds of
religious or political persecution. However, the government refuse to
acknowledge FGM as a political act and therefore women and children
cannot apply for asylum on the basis that they have suffered or will suffer
female genital mutilation if deported.
Unlike other European countries, Ireland does not have legislation to
protect these women as FGM is not strictly prohibited under Irish law.
This urgently needs to be addressed and Comhlamh and the well known
Professor of Law Ivana Bacik presented draft legislation to the previous
Minister of Health Michael Martin but this was not acted upon. The
current Minister for Health Mary Harney seems to be taking the same
stance on the proposed legislation as her predecessor.

In an increasingly multicultural Ireland FGM is being encountered by
health professionals, anti-racism groups and women's groups from women
who have suffered FGM and also from others who want to know where
FGM is performed in Ireland.

The group Residents Against Racism (RAR) has, over the past few years,
helped women and families who have fled to Ireland due to the threat of
FGM and face deportation back to their country by the Irish state. Here are
just some of the stories of the people facing deportation.

In 1999, Elizabeth Onasanwo left Nigeria with her children after watching
her home being burnt down by tribal elders and family members when she
refused to allow her daughters be circumcised. Elizabeth who witnessed
her own sister die from FGM, did not want to see her daughters meet the
same fate.The Minister for "Justice" ordered the deportation of the
Onasanwo family. Elizabeth could not handle the stress and suffered a
nervous breakdown. Since then her eldest daughter Christina has reapplied
for asylum on behalf of the family but they are still awaiting a decision on
their case.

Juliet Imiruaye, a Nigerian midwife, fled from persecution six years ago.
Juliet is a survivor of FGM and was working in her community to try to
prevent the practice of FGM. Since her arrival Juliet has worked with
Comhlamh, anti-racism groups, and other NGO's to highlight the practice
of FGM in Nigeria. In Ireland she has also helped raise awareness among
Irish health professionals and Irish midwives who may not have dealt with
FGM before. This is important as women and children are arriving in
Ireland who have been mutilated and they may not wish to talk about their
experiences and midwives may not be fully aware of the dangers that arise
from FGM which can be life threatening. Juliet has recently received a
deportation order courtesy of Michael McDowell. Because of Juliet's
amazing work in Ireland she has a lot of support behind her and RAR has
vowed to help fight the unjust decision.

Elizabeth Salako fled Nigeria four years ago with her children. Elizabeth
feared for the safety of her children because Sharia law (based on strict
Islamic principles) is in force in certain parts of Nigeria and would have
subjected her daughter to early marriage and FGM. Since arriving the
family have settled well into the community in Birr, Co. Offaly and despite
having a large amount of local support Elizabeth still received a deportation
order. Pressure from the local community and an intervention from a local
TD resulted in the family being granted another three years to remain in
Ireland on humanitarian grounds.

The government are treating women asylum seekers appallingly. Women
flee from persecution for many reasons but one of the most serious is
FGM. It is not only a women's issue - it is an issue of human rights. Only
two women have ever been granted refugee status on grounds of FGM in
Ireland and this is a disgrace. Residents Against Racism has started a
campaign for women asylum seekers to gain refugee status on the grounds
they have suffered or will suffer FGM if deported. We hope to work with
other groups and organisations to raise awareness and want people to get
involved and support the campaign.

by Emma

For More Information on FGM

Contact Residents Against Racism (RAR) at

What is FGM?

Female Genital Mutilation is the removal or part removal of the clitoris. In
Nigeria, where most asylum cases of FGM in Ireland are from, there are
three main types perfomed. They are:

Clitordectomy (also known as sunna) where the clitoral hood with part
or all the clitoris is removed.

Excision (the most common practice) where both the clitoris and part or
all the labia minora are removed.

Infibulation (the most severe form of FGM but the least common) is
where the clitoris and parts or all the labia minora are removed and
incisions are made on the labia majora creating a raw surface. These
surfaces are sewn or pinned together leaving only a tiny pinhole opening to
let out urine and menstrual blood.

What are the Dangers of FGM?

The horrendous conditions of FGM often result in death; the operation in
the majority of cases is performed by an untrained midwife in the most
appallingly unhygienic circumstances. Blunt and unsterile objects such as
razor blades, broken glass and sharp stones are used which can lead to
infection and HIV/AIDS. The age of women subjected to FGM varies from
a few days old up till marriage or childbirth.

Why is FGM practiced?

It is believed FGM is a rite of passage into adulthood, often in the child's
community a ceremony will take place to celebrate her transition into
womanhood. It is believed that FGM will promote chastity and help
maintain her virginity before marriage and prevent her from becoming
sexually active.
This page is from the print version of the Irish
Anarchist paper 'Workers Solidarity'.
We also provide PDF files of all our publications
http://www.struggle.ws/wsm/pdf.html for you
to print out and distribute locally
Print out the PDF file of this issue

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