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Deported to be Mutilated?

category ireland / britain | migration / racism | news report author Sunday July 03, 2005 01:57author by Emma WS-83 - workers solidarity movement Report this post to the editors

Make FGM grounds for asylum

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 grounds of religious or political persecution. However the government refuse to acknowlege FGM as a political act and therefore women and children cannot apply for asylum on the basis they have suffered or will suffer FGM if deported.

Unlike other European countries Ireland does not have legislation to protect these as FGM is not strictly prohibited under Irish law. This urgently needs to be addressed and Comlamh and well known Professor of Law Ivana Bacik presented draft legislation to the previous Minister of Health but this was not acted upon. The current Minister of Health Mary Harney seems to be taking the same atance 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 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 daughter Christina has reapplied for asylum on bahalf 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 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 health professionals and Irish midwives who may not have dealt with FGM before. This is important as women and children arriving in Ireland who have been mutilated may not wish to talk about their experiences and midwives may not be aware of the dangers that arise from FGM which can be life threatening. Juliet still received a deportation order courtesey of Michael McDowell. Because of Juliets amazing work in Ireland she had alot of support behind her and was recently granted full status.

Five years ago Nkechi Okolie arrived in Ireland with her three children. Nkechi had had the operation and did not her daughter to go through what she suffered. The family settled well into the community of Castleblaney Co. Monaghan but on March 14 2005 Nkechi and her children were deported to Nigeria by the Irish state.
The local government were appalled and hreartbroken by the deportation. The community are now united in their fight to bring Nkechi and her children back to Ireland.

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 gounds of FGM and this a disgrace.
Residents Against Racism has along with other groups and organisations started a campaign for women asylum seekers to be granted automatic refugee status on the grounds they have suffered or will suffer FGM if deported. We hope to work with other groups to raise awareness and want people to get involved and support the campaign.

What is FGM?
Female Genital Mutilation is the removal or part removal or part removal of the clitoris. In Nigeria where most cases of FGM in Ireland are from there are three main types performed.

Clitordectomy-where the clitoral hood with part or all the labia minora are removed
Exision( the most common practice)- where both the clitoris and part or all the labia minora removed.
Infibulation( most severe 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 or 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 unhygenic circumstances. Blunt and unsterile objects such as razor blades, broken glass and sharp stoned 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 a child's community a ceremony will take place to celebrate her trasition into womanhood. It is believed that FGM will promote chastity and help maintain her virginity before marriage and prevent her from becoming sexually active.

For more info on FGM
Contact RAR at

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