Recently, U.S. immigration courts have accepted more asylum claims from women who are survivors of domestic violence in their home countries. In a recent article in the Michigan Law Review, Jillian Blake proposes a definition of “battered women” that would delineate them as a particular social group so as to fit into this internationally accepted definition of a refugee:
A person who owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it . . . .
Blake explains that, until recently, gender-based violence could not fulfill the requirement that its survivors be members of a particular social group, because women comprise at least one-half of the world’s population. This means that women could not seek refugee status in the U.S. simply by virtue of being survivors of domestic violence in their home countries. However the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently granted asylum to a Mexican woman who feared that her former domestic partner would kill her if she returned to her home country.
If the DHS takes this new case as precedence, women who experience domestic violence in their home countries would be more successful in seeking asylum in the U.S. The current Administration should be sure to take into account the social reality women face in their home countries and defend women most in need of international protection when finalizing its definition of a “battered woman.”
By Nicole Cata, Policy Intern