Cases & Deals

Young woman from Mali seeking to escape female genital mutilation and forced marriage wins asylum

Clients Client T

Jones Day Houston represented Client T, a young woman who sought asylum to escape from being subjected to female genital mutilation (FGM) when she returned to her home country of Mali. Although 92 percent of the women in Mali are subjected to FGM, many of them as young girls, our client was protected from the practice by her father. Her father passed away and Client T came to the United States in 2007 to get a college education. Without her father's protection and support, her immediate family in Mali was forced to depend on her late father's extended family. The family arranged for her return to Mali to be forced into a marriage as the third wife of an elderly but powerful man. The man paid a dowry to Client T's family and insisted that she be circumcised before the marriage. Numerous letters to Client T from her family called for her return to Mali for circumcision to end the disgrace and dishonor they felt she brought to the family. Despite this enormous pressure and the lack of economic support from her family, Client T believes that the practice of FGM is wrong and that her father would not approve.

Client T was referred to Michelle "Mitch" Gibbons, Jones Day Houston, as a pro bono client by the Tahirih Justice Center of Houston. U.S. law recognizes that women with a well-founded fear of being subjected to FGM are eligible for asylum, but asylum applications must be filed within 1 year after arriving in the U.S. Thanks to the assistance of Tahirih, volunteer doctors, translators and experts and the dedicated help of Briana Bassler, a litigation associate in Houston, Jones Day was able to apply for and win asylum for Client T. We were able to successfully argue that our client should be granted asylum even though she did not apply within one year after arriving in the U.S.