Virginia fled her country to escape her husband, who she says started abusing her after he joined a local gang, trying to force her to submit to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).
“Life became hard because I didn’t want to undergo the cut,” she told me.
“So he started beating me hard, torturing me, cutting me with razor blades, so that I give in.”
And then, one night a group came to her house.
“That is when they forced me to have the cut. But before then they tortured me.
“They cut me with knives. I didn’t want to sit down. They punched me around just to make me sit down, and at the end of it… I sat because the pain was too much for me.”
Virginia is not her real name. After she was cut she managed to escape, but then she started receiving threats from her husband and his gang, and says her family were targeted too.
She’s afraid she will be killed if her husband tracks her down.
“They are coming for my head. I can’t go back, I really can’t go back. They are waiting for me to kill me. He will track me down.”
That’s why she’s sought asylum here in the UK, but she’s had two claims turned down. She is now appealing again.
Virginia’s story is an example of why campaigners argue asylum law needs to be more flexible, and more compassionate.
To claim asylum you have to show that you are being persecuted because of who you are. That falls into five categories under the Geneva Refugee Convention: race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion.
Gender itself is not grounds for persecution, but for those escaping gender-based violence, it can be argued that you are part of a particular social group that is being targeted.
You also need to show that your own country is unable or unwilling to help you.
Policy and advocate manager at the Joint Committee for the Welfare of Immigrants, Zoe Gardner, said: “We are a compassionate country, people hearing the stories of these people would absolutely believe that we should be able to help those people.
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