Strauss-Kahn case and defendant’s FGM status

I’ve just been reading the New York Times article about DSK’s case, which mentions that the defendant may have been through FGM.

Whatever my personal feelings about this case, it is quite spurious to suggest that the fact this defendant may have been through FGM and yet not declared it on her asylum form somehow relates to the wider veracity of her character.

Firstly, a woman seeking asylum may have no idea that other countries do not practice FGM. In fact, when talking with villagers in Senegal, one person asked: “how have people in your country felt about abandoning cutting?” – communities there thought it was universal.

Secondly, even though they might be aware that it is not practised elsewhere, they may have no knowledge of it as a gross human rights abuse, such as we know it is.  Partly because their entire community may practise FGC, may see it as entirely beneficial and because it may have happened for thousands of years, have no knowledge of anything being different.

Lastly, it is such an intensely personal thing, that anyone may not wish to claim to authorities what they have gone through.

Whatever you might think about this case, the lack of knowledge and awareness that most people have about FGM give an additional layer of complexity.

For more information on female genital cutting in Guinea, here is UNICEF’s country report – 96% of girls and women are cut. Yet there is progress being made, with 394 communities to date declaring an end to female genital cutting* – a long way to go, but hopeful.