General News Wed, 18 Aug 1999
NEW YORK, Aug 17 (Reuters) - A U.S. immigration appeals court has granted asylum to a 29-year-old woman who fled Ghana out of fear she would be forced to undergo genital mutilation for having had premarital sex.
Although the Immigration and Naturalisation Service allows women to claim genital mutilation as a form of persecution and seek asylum in the United States, the BIA had held that Abankwah had not proven that she would be mutilated if she returned to Ghana.
However, last month the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the immigration court's finding that Abankwah did not present a persuasive case.
Instead the Second Circuit ruled that Abankwah's fears of genital mutilation were well-founded and ordered the BIA to reconsider the matter.
The BIA's decision granting asylum is dated Friday.
Abankwah was born into a small tribe based in central Ghana where her mother was designated the tribe's ``queen mother,'' leading in religious rituals and setting rules for other women.
After her mother died in 1996, Abankwah was chosen by tribal elders to be the next queen mother. Abankwah, who had had sex with a boyfriend, refused. She also refused to perform rituals intended to determine if she was a virgin or enter into an arranged marriage.
In certain tribes, genital mutilation is performed on all girls. In Abankwah's case, it was threatened as a punishment and she fled the country.