Frequently the first victims of political and social turmoil are women and girls, who are forced to flee their homes to escape gender-related abuses such as rape, beatings, and torture. Paths have been forged in the recognition of women’s asylum claims based on forms of persecution that are gender-based. In 1995, the U.S. issued guidelines that formally recognized “gender-based persecution” as a valid ground for relief under U.S. asylum law.

Asylum is a form of support available to foreign nationals who are fleeing their countries based on past persecution or on a well-founded fear of future persecution. However, there tends to be a lack of predictability and efficiency in administering these types of claims.

The Federal Bar Association’s Immigration Law Conference May 12-13 will provide key guidance on special factors asylum officers must consider in interviewing female asylum applicants, as well as how courts evaluate asylum applicant’s claims based on violations of societal norms associated with gender. The Immigration Law Conference provides a venue for in-depth discussion on of-the-moment topics that are critical to immigration law practice. There is still time to register using the early-bird discount for the Immigration Law Conference. To learn more, please visit www.fedbar.org/immlaw17.

Asylum is intended to provide safe refuge for those who have come under persecution in his or her home country. The U.S. has a long history of offering safe harbor to refugees fleeing oppression from around the world. These individuals, although not forcibly removed, may be compelled to leave his or her home for fear of persecution.

In line with our country’s commitment to ending violence against women and girls, those fleeing gender-based harm—female genital mutilation, honor killings, forced marriage, domestic violence, sexual harassment, and abuses based on one’s advocacy of women’s rights—should be among the refugees protected through our legal system.

While private individuals may inflict harms, they are often encouraged, tolerated or ignored by their governments. For over two decades, gender-related asylum claims have received increasing attention by U.S. immigration authorities and the federal courts. But these cases remain challenging, as such claims have generated inconsistent decisions by asylum officers and immigration judges, who have the discretionary right to grant or deny an asylum claim based on whether a particular case meets the necessary conditions.  Approval means that generally, a person can remain in the host county without fear of removal or deportation.

Gender-based asylum for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault is an evolving field. On May 12-13, Immigration Law Conference panelists will explore guidelines for adjudicators determining gender-based asylum claims that recognize gender-based persecution as a ground for asylum.  Register today at www.fedbar.org/immlaw17.


Stacy Slotnick, Esq. holds a J.D., cum laude, from Touro Law Center and a B.A., summa cum laude, from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She performs a broad range of duties as an entertainment lawyer, including drafting and negotiating contracts; addressing and litigating trademark, copyright, patent, and other IP issues; and directing the strategy and implementation of public relations, blogging, and social media campaigns.