Strategies of denial: women's experiences of culture of disbelief and discreditation in the treatment of asylum claims on the grounds of female genital cutting (FGC)

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Drawing from qualitative research with female asylum seekers in Scotland who had claimed asylum to protect their daughters from female genital cutting (FGC), this article examines the workings of the culture of disbelief during asylum interviews. In this article I illustrate how the treatment of FGC-related asylum claims is informed by the convergence of hostile environment, gender and refugee stereotypes and the dominant representations of FGC. I argue that at the collision of anti-immigration and anti-FGC discourses, asylum seeking women are confronted with conflicting expectations whereby they are simultaneously expected to reinforce the constructions of themselves as victims of "backward" cultural practices, and to narrate their vulnerability beyond cultural terms in order to meet the criteria for asylum outlined in the Refugee Convention. This paper illuminates the multiple strategies asylum interviewers employ to undermine women's lived experiences of persecution, revealing the contradictions in how interviewers simultaneously question the threat of FGC, women's inability to resist these practices and women's own experiences of being subject to FGC. Through this, I problematise the assumptions that FGC as an "extreme" form of gender-based violence would offer an exception to refugee women's persistent struggles in being recognised as victims of persecution.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of Ethnic and Migration Studies
Early online date21 Jun 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 21 Jun 2021


  • female genital cutting
  • gender-based persecution
  • culture of disbelief
  • asylum seekers
  • credibility

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