An immigration appeals court has granted asylum to a woman who fled Ghana out of fear she would be forced to undergo genital mutilation for having had premarital sex.

The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), in a Friday ruling made public today, vacated its earlier order that would have forced Adelaide Abankwah, 29, to return to the West African nation.

Although the Immigration and Naturalization Service allows women to claim genital mutilation as a form of persecution and seek asylum in the United States, the BIA had held that Abankwah had not proven that she would be mutilated if she returned to Ghana.

But, last month, the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Abankwah's fears of genital mutilation were well-founded and ordered BIA to reconsider.

Abankwah was born into a small Ghanaian tribe in which her mother was the tribe's "queen mother" who led religious rituals and set rules for other women.

After her mother died in 1996, Abankwah was chosen by tribal elders to be the next queen mother. Abankwah, who had had sex with a boyfriend, refused. She also refused to take part in rituals intended to determine if she was a virgin or to enter into an arranged marriage.