Painful Decision

Moscow Oblast Court denied the claims for temporary asylum of a Nigerian whose relatives want to force her to undergo female genital mutilation.

The Moscow Oblast Court refused to grant temporary asylum to a Nigerian national who is running the risk of facing female genital mutilation back in her home state. Three female judges led by the presiding judge Marina Voronova ruled that Jessica Jacklin needed no help, despite the fact that 25% of young women in her country go through the crippling surgery and many die from blood loss as the surgery is conducted without any pain relief.

In so doing, the higher instance upheld the decision of the Luberetsky City Court of Moscow Oblast. Earlier Ms. Jacklin’s case had been passed around as a ball between the migration authority for Moscow Oblast and the Main Directorate for Migration Affairs of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (GUVM MVD): temporary asylum would be denied by the migration authority, then the denial would be challenged by the GUVM MVD, and so it would go on a circle of refusals and revocations of refusals.

In 2010 Jessica learnt that her parents found her a husband, a 60-year-old retired man ready to pay a tidy sum for the young woman. The wedding arrangements implied that Jessica undergoes genital mutilation, so she decided to escape home. She was hosted by her mother’s sister, whose daughter died from blood loss in the course of such a surgery some years earlier. Jessica lived at her aunt’s in a province neighboring with her parents’ province for four years, in a state of constant fear that someone would recognize her and disclose her location to her relatives.

In 2011 Jessica met Franklin who came to his homeland to visit his family but at the time already had a temporary residence permit in Russia. The two fell in love and started writing each other. Four years later, Franklin suggested Jessica move to Moscow with him. She said yes.

Now, two years after her arrival, Ms. Jacklin still cannot formalize her stay in Russia. At the same time, it is now even more dangerous for her to come back home: not only is she a runaway bride, but also the family’s disgrace since she dared to marry the man she had chosen herself. If Franklin even shows himself before Jessica’s parents, he will be killed. And if she comes back alone, everything will be back to square one: genital mutilation and arranged marriage with whoever her relatives choose.

High-ranking Nigerian officials have taken up several attempts to ban the barbaric procedure in the country, but traditions prevail. According to the WHO, 200 million women in the world have endured such a surgery. More than 140 million are suffering from its aftermath.

The UNCHR recommends not to send Yoruba refugees to their home state due to the high risk of facing inhuman treatment by means of the barbaric procedure.

Photo: Flickr/USAID in Africa

Translation by Daria Gorbacheva