9 King's Student L. Rev. 1 (2018)

handle is hein.journals/kinstul9 and id is 1 raw text is: 

The King's Student Law Review 2018; Volume IX, Issue 1


               The   Membership of a Particular Social Group:

        Forging a Space for Victims of Female Genital Mutilation



                                    Jordan   Rhodes



ABSTRACT - The United Nations Refugee Convention remains the centrepiece of
international refugee law. Yet, its key text omits a Convention ground  to accommodate
gender-specific asylum claims. As a result, victims of female genital mutilation (FGM) have
traditionally experienced grave difficulties in receiving international protection in the UK.
Arguably, since the House of Lords' landmark Fornah judgment, a space for FGM claims has
been forged through the particular social group (PSG) channel. This article provides a critical
analysis of these developments   and submits  that in light of the Conntion's failure to
accommodate   gender-specific claims, the substantive protections afforded to FGM victims
are a product of judicial activism and policy initiatives. It will be argued that this reflects the
malleability of the Convention as a 'living instrument', as well as the male-centric paradigm
underpinning international human rights legislation.

                                    I. Introduction

              The world has woken up to the fact that women as a sex may be
              persecuted in ways which are different from the ways in which men are
              persecuted and that they may be persecuted because of the inferior
              status accorded to their gender in their home society.'

Fatima was  ten years old when she was ushered out of her primary school and into the bushes
to be circumcised.2 She describes lying on the ground, her legs pinned down by two others, and
the cutting taking place in one motion: The pain is the worst. It is even more painful than
giving birth, because you have to live with it for the rest of your life.3 As an adult, Fatima left
her native Gambia  to seek asylum in the UK, hoping  to protect her three-year-old daughter
from  enduring the same  inevitable fate, but her application was unsuccessful. In Fatima's
village of Sohm, the practice of FGM is an entrenched tradition, performed for generations,
and providing thousands of women  with employment  as 'inherited' circumcisers. Fatima is far
from alone in her experience. At least 200 million girls and women have been subject to FGM
in 30 countries.4 The practice is concentrated in a swath of African states, spanning from the
Atlantic Coast to the Horn  of Africa.5 In Somalia, Guinea, Djibouti and Egypt, the FGM

' Secretary of State for the Home Department v K; Fornah v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2006]
UKHL  46, 86, per Baroness Hale.
2  S.   Lloyd-Roberts,  'BBC   Our    World   -   Gambia,   FGM,    2013',  available  at:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pVCgC6Lucwc (last accessed 22 October 2017).
3 Ibid.
4 UNICEF, 'Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting: A Global Concern' (2016) 5.
5 UNICEF, 'Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting: A Statistical Overview and Exploration of the Dynamics of
Change' (2013), 26.


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