Nigerian mom of triplets flees to Winnipeg to avoid female genital mutilation

A mom is now in Winnipeg after fleeing Nigeria to prevent her daughters from undergoing female genital mutilation.

Lawyer Bashir Khan helps mother secure refugee status in Canada

In the western Senegalese village of Diabougo, a mother and daughter walk home after a meeting of women from several communities working to eradicate female genital mutilation. An Ethiopian woman recently fled to Canada with her daughters to avoid the practice. (Reuters)

A mom is now in Winnipeg after fleeing Nigeria to prevent her daughters from undergoing female genital mutilation.

FGM, sometimes known as female circumcision, involves removing all or part of the clitoris as well as, often, the labia to make young girls appear "more virginal."

The woman's father-in-law insisted her first daughter have FGM when she was just a few months old.

"She was forced to get in the vehicle and driven to a rural area and … she couldn't bear to stay there while this was being forcibly done to her daughter," said lawyer Bashir Khan, who helped the woman get refugee status in Canada.

He said the procedure was botched.

"They cut off too much of [the daughter's] clitoris, and she nearly died from the infection," said Khan.

Then, when she became pregnant with triplets – all female – the woman was told she could have the procedure done on the babies when they were born or abort them, Khan said.

Instead, she fled Nigeria, and arrived in Canada in November 2015 when she was 29 weeks pregnant.

"It was pretty hard [for her to get refugee status,]" said Khan.

She was assigned Khan as a lawyer by legal aid, who assembled the documents for her refugee status claim.

But in January, Khan uncovered a letter alleging the woman was involved in FGM and thereby aggravated assault on her first daughter.

"The minister's consul – that is the minister of citizenship and immigration here in Winnipeg -- wrote a scathing four-page letter calling my client a bad mother and saying my client should not be able to make a refugee claim," said Khan. "Statistics tell us that ministerial interventions in the last few years have skyrocketed in the past few years."

Khan said there was no evidence that that had taken place.

"That was something that sat uncomfortably with me, my client and the board member who heard the case," he said.

Khan called the statements disturbing and traumatizing for his client.

"This is a horrible cultural practise. The purpose of [FGM] is to discourage sexual promiscuity and to promote chastity," said Khan. "Parents subject their daughters to FGM based on the social belief that young women who refuse to undergo this will have difficulty in labour or will be unfaithful to her husband."

He said she was in a state of shock when he explained to her what was happening.

"She was just horrified," he said. "It was a disturbing and uncomfortable moment. The room got really cold."

Since then, the woman was granted refugee status.

Khan said his client is now doing well, loves Canada and hopes to raise her three daughters here.