The Center for Gender & Refugee Studies protects the fundamental human rights of refugee women, children, LGBT individuals, and others who flee persecution in their home countries. We provide legal expertise, training, research and publications, engage in appellate litigation and policy development, and use international human rights instruments to address the root causes of persecution and to advance human rights.
In 1999, following her groundbreaking legal victory in Matter of Kasinga, Karen Musalo founded CGRS to meet the needs of asylum seekers fleeing gender-based violence. Fauziya Kassindja, a young woman from Togo, fled to the United States to escape female genital cutting and a forced polygamous marriage to a much older man. By the time Karen became involved, an Immigration Judge had already denied Fauziya asylum, holding that a fear of female genital cutting did not make her eligible. Karen led the legal team which took on Fauziya’s representation, and argued her case to the Board of Immigration Appeals, winning a landmark decision that broke new ground in the developing jurisprudence of gender-based asylum claims. The case continues to serve as the foundation for the still evolving U.S. and international movements to recognize gender violence as a basis for asylum.
Founded to advocate for women like Fauziya, CGRS has grown into an internationally respected resource for gender asylum, renowned for our knowledge of the law and ability to combine sophisticated legal strategies with policy advocacy and human rights interventions. We take the lead on controversial issues, participate as co-counsel or amicus curiae in impact litigation, produce an extensive library of litigation support materials, maintain an unsurpassed database of asylum records and decisions, and work in coalitions with immigrant, refugee, LGBT, children’s, and women’s rights networks. Since our founding, we have also engaged in international human rights work to address the underlying causes of forced migrations that produce refugees - namely, violence and persecution, committed with impunity when governments fail to protect their citizens.