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Asylum system still failing victims of female genital mutilation

Around 200 million #women and #girls around the world today are estimated to have undergone female genital mutilation (#FGM) – the procedure of intentionally altering and removing parts of female genital organs for cultural, religious and other non-medical reasons.

FGM often leads to #healthcomplications, as well as psychological #trauma and increased risk of developing #PTSD.

The practice is widely regarded not only as a form of gender based violence, but as a violation of fundamental human rights. It not only violates the right to health, but the often unconsensual nature of the procedure strips one of bodily autonomy and subjects them to torture, cruel, and degrading treatment. In all #EU member states, FGM is considered a criminal act.

According to #UNHCR's report titled “Too Much Pain: FGM & Asylum in the EU - A Statistical Overview“, 17 750 girls and women seeking asylum in #Europe in 2014 had already been subject to FGM prior to their arrival. The 2018 statistical update showed an increase in FGM, with around 24 000 women refugees being 'cut' before reaching Europe.

Despite it being considered a criminal act, the discourse regarding women #refugees and #asylumseekers seems to be lacking in terms of truly recognizing FGM as grounds for #asylum.

According to the barrister and Cambridge academic Dr Charlotte Proudman, “FGM is a ground for asylum, but such claims are often lost in a politically ‘hostile environment’ for asylum seekers. Often, the government efforts to halt immigration outweigh the commitment to protecting girls and women from gender-based violence.” For this reason, many asylum claims made by women fleeing FGM are rejected, leaving them completely unprotected.

The most common reasons for an FGM asylum claim refusal include claiming that women can choose not to be cut, can relocate or ask family for protection – all of which completely ignores how culturally ingrained and widespread the procedure is in FGM practicing countries.

A review of the #EU response to FGM asylum claims is urgently needed to finally stop vulnerable women from further exposure to violence due to the inefficiency of the asylum system.

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