Nigerian family struggles to protect daughters from painful African tradition

Mother and girls are trying to become refugees in Canada to avoid genital mutilation – Linked on our blogs with Give someone you never met, a gift they will never forget, with Clinic to fight taboo of female mutilation, with International Centre for Reproductive Health ICHR, with Waris Dirie et la MGF, and with Desert Flower Foundation.

Published on Vancouver Sun, by Lori Culbert, January 8, 2011.

A Metro Vancouver mother is waging a legal battle to keep her three daughters in Canada to protect them from the controversial tradition of female genital circumcision in their native Nigeria.

The family has lost one legal skirmish but won a second, and is now preparing for a hearing before the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) to find out if the mother and daughters — now aged eight, 14 and 16 — can remain in Canada.

Their incredible journey is spelled out in documents, at the Federal Court of Canada, that tell a tale as inspirational as it is heartbreaking. 

Both Naomi Koin and her husband come from tribes in Nigeria that continue to circumcise young girls — a practice that includes the partial or complete removal of external genitalia.

Koin became a Christian in 1986 and in 1993 married Rotimi, also a Christian … //

… The family settled in Metro Vancouver in the fall of 2007 and made a Canadian refugee protection claim in 2008.

However, the IRB denied the claim in March, ruling there wasn’t enough proof the girls would be forced to undergo circumcision if returned to Nigeria and that the family had not been subjected to persecution.

Koin’s lawyer appealed to the Federal Court, and in November Justice Russel Zinn ruled the IRB’s decision was “seriously flawed” and ordered it to reconsider the application.

Zinn added: “Given that the in-laws want to force the young girls to undergo a painful and dangerous procedure with severe and well-documented negative physical and psychological ramifications, the Board’s finding that ‘there is no evidence to suggest that the in-laws’ threats amounted to anything’ is unreasonable.”

The IRB has not yet scheduled a date for a new refugee hearing for the family, but a spokeswoman said such files are given priority when they are referred back by the Federal Court.

The pastor of the family’s church wrote a supportive letter to the IRB, saying Koin is a talented gospel singer and that she and her daughters “are a responsible and loving family.”

Perhaps the most straightforward argument in this long legal drama, though, comes from Koin’s 14-year-old daughter, who simply told the IRB:

“I understand that circumcision means that I would have to be cut in my private parts. I am really afraid of being circumcised in Nigeria and I do not want to do it.”

A RITUAL OF PERSECUTION: … (full long text).

Comments are closed.