SYDNEY, Sept 23 – Australia’s government is considering intervening to stop the deportation of two Kenyan women who fear they will be circumcised if forced to return home, officials said Wednesday.
Grace Gichuhi, 22, and Teresia Ndikaru Muturi, 21, have been in Australia since festivities for Catholic World Youth Day in July last year and have exhausted their avenues under Australian law to apply for asylum.
Debate is due to begin on a new law which would extend protection visas to women seeking refuge from honour killings or female genital mutilation, but it is opposed by the conservative opposition.
While current laws do not cover Gichuhi and Muturi’s claims, Immigration Minister Chris Evans said he was willing to consider directly intervening in their case.
"The two women have submitted new requests for ministerial intervention and these will be thoroughly assessed," a spokesman for Evans told AFP.
"The women will not be removed from Australia while these applications are on hand."
Both women come from families where it was customary to circumcise the clitoris, a practice known in the West as female genital mutilation.
Gichuhi said her mother had been killed by members of the Mungiki sect for refusing to have her clitoris cut off, and she also feared death in the crude operation.
"They use a knife. Just a knife, no medicine," she told Fairfax newspapers.
"They circumcise you and maybe you die."
Muturi said she was sold for 10 cows to marry a 70-year-old man and would also be circumcised against her will if forced to return.
Opposition immigration spokeswoman Sharman Stone has said the proposed new law would open the floodgates to false claims and abuse.