Would Immigration Laws Be Different If Women Ruled The World?

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This study suggests the answer is yes. And in today’s NYT, this article illustrates why that might be important. Entitled “Drawing a Line Between Enduring Harm and Legitimate Fear,” it explains that a culture of forced marriage and genital circumcision does not provide a legitimate basis for asylum in the United States. Author Adam Liptak wrote:

… Lauri Steven Filppu, writing for a three-member panel of the immigration board, was measured in his sympathy.

“It is understandable,”he wrote, that Ms. Traore,”an educated young woman, would prefer to choose her own spouse rather than acquiesce to pressure from her family to marry someone she does not love and with whom she expects to be unhappy. The respondent has also expressed valid concerns about possible birth defects resulting from a union with her first cousin.”

“While we do not discount the respondent’s concerns,”Mr. Filppu continued,”we do not see how the reluctant acceptance of family tradition over personal preference can form the basis”for allowing Ms. Traore to stay in the United States.

Karen Musalo, the director of the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies at Hastings College of the Law, said that reasoning was the product of a judicial system dominated by men.

“Are women’s rights human rights?”Professor Musalo asked.”Isn’t it a human right not to be forced into a marriage?”

Last week, Ms. Traore’s lawyers filed a motion for reconsideration. They noted that the logic of the board’s decision was not always easy to follow.

The board acknowledged, for instance, that women who have been subjected to forced sterilization are routinely granted asylum even though that procedure, like genital cutting, cannot be repeated. The board, which is part of the Justice Department, rejected the reasoning of a 2005 decision by the federal appeals court in California, which refused to deport a woman who had been subjected to genital cutting in Somalia.

“Like forced sterilization,”Judge Stephen Reinhardt wrote for a unanimous three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit,”genital mutilation permanently disfigures a woman, causes long-term health problems, and deprives her of a normal and fulfilling sexual life.”

That is an understatement, Professor Musalo said.

“The kind of physical and psychological devastation that goes along with female genital cutting is profound,”Professor Musalo said.”It results in sex that is absolutely torturous, that not only has no pleasure but is a locus point of pain and agony.”

Ms. Traore used simpler language.

“I don’t feel great in my body,”she said.”A woman needs to be complete.”

Professor Musalo had a theory about why the board treated forced sterilization differently from genital cutting. Sterilization affects procreation and motherhood, which are valued by men. Genital cutting, by contrast, affects only women’s sexual pleasure and autonomy. …

Via john v burke, with thanks.

–Ann Bartow

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