(CN) – The alleged female circumcision of a Guinea woman amounted to past persecution, the 4th Circuit ruled, reinstating her petition for U.S. asylum.
Fatoumata Kourouma claimed she fled to the United States when her husband – the man her father had given her to – threatened to have her circumcised a second time, because she’d been partially circumcised at age 7.
Her alleged early circumcision didn’t include the traditional process of infibulation, where all the outer portions of the vagina are removed and then sewn shut.
The immigration judge rejected her application for asylum as untimely, but also doubted her credibility.
The judge wasn’t convinced that Kourouma was who she claimed to be, as she had produced documents identifying her both as Kourouma and as “Mawa.”
The judge was also concerned that Kourouma’s affidavit appeared to closely mirror a previously submitted application, saying the “documents speak for themselves.”
The Board of Immigration Appeals dismissed her appeal.
But in the view of the Virginia-based federal appeals court, those decisions were “not supported by substantial evidence.”
According to a June 2001 State Department report, 98.6 percent of all women in Guinea had undergone female genital mutilation.
“Thus, while the report alone cannot be conclusive evidence that Kourouma herself had undergone female genital mutilation, it certainly supports her contention that at age seven she was circumcised,” Judge Roger Gregory wrote for the three-judge panel.
He added that the immigration judge and the appeals board can’t dismiss an asylum petition without stating “specific, cogent” reasons for doing so.