Fornah v Secretary of State for the Home Department, House of Lords [2006] UKHL 46, [2006] 3 FCR 381, [2007] 1 All ER 671

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Susan Edwards


FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION – VIOLENCE AGAINST GIRLS AND WOMEN  AS A  PARTICULAR SOCIAL GROUPZainab Esther Fornah was fifteen years old when on 15th March 2003, as an unaccompanied minor, she arrived at UK’s Gatwick airport claiming asylum. As she was a child she was taken into the care of West Sussex Social Services Child Asylum Team. She had fled Sierra Leone where she had been captured by rebels, who had killed her family, and was repeatedly raped.  She did not want to return to her uncle’s village fearing that she would be forcibly genitally mutilated, as was customary practice. Whilst her father was alive he was able to protect her from this practice. Female genital mutilation, has variously been described as female circumcision and as clitoridectomy, as if to render benign this very specific inhumane habituated practice against females. It involves cutting away the clitoris, labia minora, labia majora and vulva of a female. The area remaining is then sewn together leaving a small aperture to allow for menstruation and urination. This maiming is often perpetrated without anaesthetic and some children do not survive. The World Health Organisation defines this particular form of torture, somewhat blandly, as “the partial or complete removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs whether for cultural or any other non-therapeutic reason.

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Susan Edwards, The University of Buckingham