The recent story featured in last week’s Daily Observer newspaper about a young girl and her mother seeking asylum in Korea because of fear of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Liberia brings Isabella’s story to focus.
Isabella has been incarcerated for the past six years, held in different holding centers in America through most of those years. She is presently in a minimum security holding center in Salisbury, Maryland, because she fears that if she returns to Africa, she could be placed in a Sande bush and circumcised.
“My lawyer has used that as my defense and that is what’s keeping me from being deported to Africa. Each time we go for a court hearing, the judge postpones my hearing date and says it will be heard once Liberia can send a paper clarifying that FGM does not exist in the country.”
So far, the Government of Liberia has yet to do so, with rising concern of the government over the increase of FGM.
“It’s crazy being here. I know a lot of Liberian women who were deported back to Liberia in the past three years who left me behind. They could not handle being in the cell any longer so they begged to be sent back. But for me, I’m different. I have children I cannot leave behind. Also, I heard from my lawyer so many bad things about how women are kidnapped and forced to be cut over there. I can’t go through that, so I will stay here and fight my case,” added Isabella.
However, while Isabella waits for FGM to be eradicated from Liberia, Tina, who was deported back to Liberia a couple of years ago says she has not had any problem since she has not been forced to join any society. Nor does she see anyone doing anything much about stopping FGM practices because she hears about it on the news.
“The only problem I’m faced with here is I can’t survive alone. Out here there is no one to help me. When I go to these local NGOs with sign boards up saying that they feed the poor, they turn me away, saying they can only help me if I pass through the government. I have gone to every government building, but they all tell me the same thing: I was deported,” Tina said.
Tina said she tried FGM as her defense to remain in the United States, but it did not work. “The practice of FGM is common in Africa and If America looks at keeping every woman who is not fit to live in America from being deported because of that, their jails will be full. And trust me, there are some very bad criminal American women like those who kill their children,” she said.
There have been reports of FGM happening in America in Wikipedia, but America banned the practice in 1997 though there are said to be delinquent facilities still carrying out the practice. According to Isabella, her lawyer has been doing a lot of research.
“According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at least 200,000 girls in the U.S. are at risk of being forced to undergo cutting. The CDC says “at risk” because there are no actual records of the practice, only estimates – and old estimates at that,” Isabella’s email to her mother said.
Meanwhile, Isabella yells through a conference call that she will spend the rest of her life behind bars in America, along with many other Liberian women who are at the same holding, awaiting deportation.
When asked if she really fears FGM, Isabella laughed and added that the person who is doing the cutting should be the one afraid.
“Being out here in the States has taught me a good lesson, fight for my rights even if that means dying,” she added.