The client, Ms. Mensah* was raised in a community in the Upper West Region of Ghana where Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) is practiced. She was brought up by her grandmother, who was against this practice and protected her for many years. When her grandmother passed away - she was 19 years old at the time - her father said she had to move in with him and undergo FGM/C, but she resisted. Consequently, she was repeatedly threatened and attacked by her family. She fled Ghana and requested asylum in the United Kingdom.
Ms. Mensah claimed to be at risk of persecution from her father and her father’s side of the family. She asserted that being returned against her will would breach the UK’s obligations under the 1951 Refugee Convention and the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (incorporated into domestic law by the Human Rights Act 1998). The UK Home Office refused her first asylum claim as they did not accept that Ms. Mensah would be at risk of FGM/C and argued that she would be protected by the Ghanaian authorities. The solicitors of Ms. Mensah reached out to us and requested a country expert opinion to form part of the evidence in the asylum claim.
FGM/C in Ghana
Although the national FGM/C prevalence in Ghana is low (2.4%), Ms. Mensah’s family is from a region with high rates (32.5%). Also, existing evidence confirms that FGM/C is practiced among the ethnic group of her family. Even though FGM/C is criminalized in Ghana under the Criminal Code Amendement Act (Section 69A) - cases are not promtply investigated and prosecuted, which is ais also acknowledged by UN human rights committees. The efforts to prevent and combat harmful traditional practices in Ghana, including FGM/C, are very limited.
We wrote an extensive report assessing Ms. Mensah’s case. It focused on whether Ms. Mensah would be at risk of FGM/C despite being an adult woman, whether she would be able to relocate within Ghana, and whether the authorities would be able to protect her.
We assessed the account of Ms. Mensah to be consistent with Dr. Middelburg’s background knowledge. We concluded that it is plausable for her to face a real risk (‘forseeable risk’) to undergo FGM/C upon return to Ghana. Given the circumstances, it couldn’t be requested for Ms. Mensah to settle elsewhere within her home country. Consequently, if returned to Ghana, she would most probably find herself in a situation that conflicts with the 1951 Refugee Convention and Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).
*For security and privacy reasons, the names of clients and specific facts and details from this case have been modified.