Avon Global Center for Women and Justice at Cornell Law School - Green Background

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  • In re A-T, Mali, United States Immigration Court , 2011.
    After over six years in immigration court, an immigration judge reversed his previous judgment to give a woman from Mali asylum protection in the United States. As a child in Mali, the woman was subjected to female genital mutilation (FGM). She studied in the United States; her father then ordered her back to Mali to marry her first cousin, despite the fact that she already had three children in the U.S. Fearing forcible marriage and rape for herself and forced FGM for her daughters, the woman applied for asylum. The immigration court denied her request initially in 2004. On appeal, the Board of Immigration Appeals reasoned that FGM is a one-time occurrence, making future persecution unlikely. However, in 2008, the Attorney General intervened, pointing to the interconnectedness of sexual violence and the possibility of future persecution. The Attorney General directed that the case be reconsidered, and after a new trial, the judge granted the woman asylum, indicating that the threat of spousal rape alone was enough to constitute persecution. The case is important for asylum applicants, because violent acts like FGM are no longer to be considered isolated events unlikely to lead to further persecution.
  • Madame H.T. v. Monsieur Y.K., Mali, Supreme Court, 2007.
    Witnesses testified that Madame H.T. insulted her husband’s co-wife and mother in law. The Appeal Court granted divorce to Monsieur Y.K. on the sole basis that by insulting his mother his first wife had harmed his husband honor and dignity and made marital life impossible. However, quarrels between co-wives do not characterize a serious insult in a polygamous marriage. Moreover, by asking for divorce from the first wife only, the husband committed a serious injustice and violated his duty of impartiality with his wives. Additionally, insults directed at the husband’s mother do not constitute a legal basis for divorce, according to the Code des Mariages et Tutelles (Code of Marriage and Tutelage). Indeed, the Code only considers insults directly addressed at the husband as a basis for divorce. The Court held that such insults were not proved in this case and could neither be inferred from the behavior of Madame H.T. with her husband’s co-wife and mother in law, nor from her confession of having insulted her husband’s co-wife.