Belgium: Council for Alien Law Litigation ruling on FGM in Guinea

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

This case relates to a national of Guinea who requested asylum in October 2012 on the basis of a fear of both her and her daughter being subjected to forced genital mutilation (FGM) by her in-laws. The claim was rejected in July 2013, on reasons of her profile and credibility on the basis that neither her nor her sisters had undergone FGM, and that she lived in a modern part of the country. Her appeal was dismissed. She lodged a new asylum claim in July 2014 based on the same fears but with the additional element that her sister had undergone FGM since the first claim. After litigation on whether this amounted to a subsequent claim, the substance of her claim was considered, but rejected once again. She appealed against this decision to the Council for Alien Law Litigation (CALL).  

She argued that her daughter was at risk of FGM by her in-laws which she was opposed to, and that she was at risk of persecution by her husband, who she had been forced to marry, for fleeing her marital home. The CALL considered that each individual had distinct fears of persecution and thus their claims should be examined separately. It considered that the applicant’s mental and physical state explained the vagueness of her initial declarations about her claim, and that the evidence and statements as a whole were relatively precise and convincing. The benefit of the doubt should be given on secondary aspects.

It found that the applicant had provided sufficient medical documents and oral evidence as to the fact that her sister had undergone FGM. It was plausible that she had been forced to marry her husband and that her risk of FGM was well-founded in view of the prevalence of FGM in Guinea, particularly among her ethnic group (Malinke). The information submitted showed that the Guinean authorities had not been able to stop this practice due to problems of corruption, incompetence and nepotism and that the applicant would not be able to seek protection from the national authorities. The CALL considered that the applicant had established that she had been forced to marry a man chosen by her uncle. In addition, the medical evidence she had provided showed that she had been suffering from psychological issues and PTSD which had affected her credibility and her ability to provide a precise and detailed account of her asylum claim.

Turning to the applicant’s daughter, the evidence indicated that there was a significant objective risk for girls of that age to undergo FGM, and that her father and his family were attached to this practice, indicated by the fact that her aunt had undergone FGM. It was therefore established that she would face a risk of persecution on return to Guinea as a member of a particular social group, women. The Council decided that the applicant and her daughter should be recognised as refugees.

Based on an unofficial ELENA translation. The ELENA Weekly Legal Update would like to thank Benoit Dhondt of ELENA-Belgium for providing us with this judgment. 

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Female genital mutilation
Gender Based Persecution
Medical Reports/Medico-legal Reports
Persecution (acts of)
Persecution Grounds/Reasons
Vulnerable person