Gender-related violence should be grounds for asylum. Congress must fix this for women

Steven Legomsky, John S. Lehmann University Professor Emeritus


Our asylum laws have some gaping holes. These gaps endanger many groups, but none more so than women and girls who are fleeing domestic violence, honor killings, mass rape in wartime, gang rape by criminal gangs, and other gender-related violence. Congress must explicitly recognize gender-based persecution as a potential asylum ground.

Asylum requires a “well-founded” fear of being persecuted. But not just any persecution will do. The persecution has to occur for one of five specific reasons — your race, your religion, your nationality, your political opinion, or what the law calls your “particular social group.” Gender is notably missing from this list.

That omission is not surprising. U.S. asylum laws, like those of most other western countries, track the language of an international refugee convention that was adopted in 1951. Gender-related violence was simply not on the public radar at that time.

But it is now 2019. The historical excuse will no longer wash. With women’s marches, the MeToo movement, the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation process and women’s stunning midterm electoral successes, gender-related violence is now part of our national consciousness.

Read the full piece in USA Today.

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