On the brink of condemning two women to mutilation
Sitting on our Immigration Minister’s desk is an application for ministerial intervention; an application that if not approved will send two young Kenyan women back to their homeland and into the hands of a barbaric fate.
What awaits Grace, 22, and Teresia, 21, is genital mutilation. While outlawed around the world, it still exists in their homeland – an act involving a knife, 10 men holding them to the ground and another 30 looking on. So horrific, that death is not unusual (and for those who do survive female genital mutilation, it does irreparable harm).
If they refuse mutilation, they will be murdered.
Grace and Teresia have been living in Australia since last year, when they visited to celebrate World Youth Day – an event our nation declared as a defining moment in history. The media “vibed it”; we were welcoming as a mecca of culture, religion and youth.
Both Grace and Teresia have been denied protection visas from our country. Now they are asking Immigration Minister Chris Evans to intervene. It’s their last chance.
In his evaluation, Evans must consider whether the women are telling the truth, or if it could be possible they’re embellishing the threat of genital mutilation for the sake of wanting to stay in Australia.
Sr Aileen Crowe from the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary says, these women are “scared to go back to Kenya, you can see it in their faces”. Sr Aileen has spent many weeks by the side of the pair, and has spent her last months campaigning for the girls’ livelihood, and the past years campaigning for the vulnerable and dispossessed in our society.
Sr Aileen says that in their village the women would still be in a school classroom. In Kenya they are the cultural equivalent of 14-year-old students. In Australia they’d be considered Gen Y.
Can’t we just protect these two women?
Grace and Teresia were privileged and pushed by someone smart enough to visit this country for World Youth Day and have formed a kindred relationship with the freedom and beauty of Australia enough that they want to stay. Who are we to decide otherwise, after all we are a country of immigrants, priding our every move on culture and acceptance?
Suddenly our mateship culture seems irrelevant and our multiculturalism has prerequisites.
Our country should protect women from such crimes and fight to wipeout these practices. And our first major statement should be this: We will not send these two young women back to a fate we believe is abhorrent.
A protection visa can be issued to a person in fear of persecution based on “race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion”.
But the visa criterion does not include crimes like genital mutilation or honour killings. Even though logically, one can see that genital mutilations and honor killings only happen to women, in-turn, assume women as a ‘particular social group’ and ultimately classify said crimes as persecutions.
Currently, we don’t see it like that. This is why the law needs to change.
And, there is hope. Legislation listing these persecutions has been tabled in Federal Parliament, known as a complementary visa.
But the Coalition has so far rejected it, arguing it will “open the floodgates” to immigrants. I argue rejecting the complementary visa scheme condemns Grace and Teresia to horror.
They arrived in our country for World Youth Day. We extended an invitation, we offered our hand, they accepted. Now they are reaching out from their culture, from a nation that deems this treatment acceptable. The reasons for such cultural practices seem impossible to understand, but the reasons why we consider them unacceptable we should not ignore.
If you want to help pass complementary protection within the senate, it is important you make your stance known to your local MP. Passage requires the support of all five Greens senators and the two independents.
If the complementary visa passes then perhaps we can look at tackling the incidence of genital mutilation that happens behind closed doors in our own country.
But hey, let’s take the simpler steps first.
Read all about it
Up to the minute Twitter chatter
The latest and greatest
Good morning Punchers. After four years of excellent fun and great conversation, this is the final post…
I have had some close calls, one that involved what looked to me like an AK47 pointed my way, followed…
In a world in which there are still people who subscribe to the vile notion that certain victims of sexual…