France has granted refugee status to 20,000 girls under the age of 18 to protect them from the risk of being genitally mutilated in their country of origin. On 6 February, the UN's International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), we look at the process and growing challenges of obtaining asylum in France in this way.
The UN estimates that 200 million girls have undergone some form of FGM in 31 countries around the world. And every six minutes another girl will be added to that list.
Carried out in the name of tradition, the practice involves the partial or total removal of the clitoris and labia minora.
Apart from the pain and urinary and menstrual problems it can lead to, FGM complicates pregnancy and childbirth, reduces sexual pleasure and commonly leaves girls both physically and psychologically scarred.
FGM is a crime in France and in 2012 its highest court ruled that anyone fleeing the custom has a right to file for protection under the Geneva Convention.
Each year, thousands of women seek asylum in France – for themselves or more often their daughters – to escape the risk of being cut.
Isabelle Gillete-Faye, President of the National Federation of the Group for the Abolition of Genital Mutilation (GAMS), says France is most likely to grant a girl refugee status "if the mother has been cut, the daughter has not, and they come from a country where FGM is widespread".
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