Gender-related asylum claims may concern harms directed solely or nearly exclusively at a particular gender (such as female genital cutting) or harms inflicted because of gender (such as repressive social norms that restrict women’s freedom). Gender-based harms are often inflicted by private individuals rather than governmental actors, but these harms are often encouraged, tolerated, or ignored by governments.
Because gender-based refugee claims, including those based on sexual orientation and gender identity, differ from traditional asylum claims, they have historically faced significant challenges. In recognition of these challenges, UNHCR and state parties to the 1951 Refugee Convention and its protocol, including the United States, have developed guidelines and training materials for adjudicators considering claims for protection from gender-related persecution. The guidelines explain, for example, the importance of considering legal and social norms as well as the ability and willingness of a state to control such gender-based violence to understand gender-based motivations for harm.
- U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Servs., Asylum Officer Basic Training Course: Female Asylum Applications and Gender-Related Claims (2009)
- Memorandum from Phyllis Coven, U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Considerations For Asylum Officers Adjudicating Asylum Claims From Women (1995) (published in 72 No. 22 Interpreter Releases 771 (1995))
- U.S. Dep’t of Justice Asylum and Withholding Definitions, 65 Fed. Reg. 76588 (proposed Dec. 7, 2000)
- U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Servs., Guidance for Adjudicating Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Intersex (LGBTI) Refugee and Asylum Claims (2011)
UN High Commissioner for Refugees
- U.N. High Comm’r for Refugees, Guidelines on International Protection No. 1: Gender-Related Persecution within the context of Article 1A(2) of the 1951 Convention and/or its 1967 Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees, U.N. Doc. HCR/GIP/02/01 (May 7, 2002)
- U.N. High Comm’r for Refugees, Guidelines on International Protection No. 9: Claims to Refugee Status based on Sexual Orientation and/or Gender Identity within the context of Article 1A(2) of the 1951 Convention and/or its 1967 Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees, U.N. Doc. HCR/GIP/12/09 (Oct. 23, 2012)
Center for Gender & Refugee Studies, Review of Gender, Child, and LGBTI Asylum Guidelines and Case Law in Foreign Jurisdiction: A resource for U.S. Attorneys, (May, 2014).