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Note - Sex and Gender Violence in Asylum Law: Expanding Protection Beyond Domestic Violence


Individuals who seek asylum and refugee protection are forced to compress the oppression they have suffered into narrow categories of sanctuary within the modern jurisprudence. Victims of harm based on sex and gender face a near-vertical uphill battle in seeking refuge and are frequently neglected by the law. Scholars that have broached the subject frequently speak in limited terms of domestic violence faced by women. Sex and gender-based persecution, however, is not confined only to those categories of harm and victims. Recent adjudications, like Matter of A-R-C-G-, have granted shelter to certain victims of domestic violence, but leave other victims without an avenue to relief. Therefore, the statutory definition of “refugee” must be amended and new regulations must be promulgated in order to extend protection beyond domestic violence claims. Only then will the law be able to provide consistent and adequate protection to victims of the myriad forms of sex and gender-based persecution.

An impactful analysis of the problem requires an examination of the deficiencies inherent in asylum law and its “particular social group” standard. A broader approach is needed to encapsulate all noncitizens at risk for sexual violence, regardless of sex or marital status. The experiences of other nations, which have expanded asylum protection to sufferers of sex and gender violence, offer encouraging examples. Revising asylum law and policy is the next step in protecting not only married women, but all people who have faced sexual violence or violence rooted in gender.