Domestic Violence and Gender-Based Asylum

Domestic Violence and Gender-Based Asylum

Have you or others in your home country been targeted for forced prostitution?
Have you been forced into a marriage or fear being a victim of honor killing if you return to your home country?
Are you a member of a tribe, clan, family, or religious group that forces you to undergo female genital mutilation – a practice that you are against?
Have you been subject to violence from your spouse in your home country and the police refuse to protect you?


You may be eligible for asylum protection in the U.S. based on your gender or membership in a particular social group. Asylum based on being persecuted or fearing persecution because of one’s gender or perceived gender (female or male) is a tricky areas of U.S. asylum law.  These cases often involve mixed motives of the persecutor. This means that the woman could be targeted not only because of her gender but also targeted because of her race, for instance, if she is targeted because of the persecutor’s hatred towards women of particular ethnic background or because of her religion – if she had a different, more liberal view of religious practices that caused her perpetrator to commit violence against her.  Other challenges in gender cases include:

  • In many countries, there are laws on the books now that protect women from discrimination, harassment at the workplace, or even marital rape and violence from their spouses. Immigration judges and CIS officers point to the existence of such laws in denying cases. It’s crucial to have an experienced gender-based asylum attorney work with you to disprove that even though an action may be technically illegal in your home country, the police and courts do nothing to enforce the law and protect you. This can be an uphill battle if just countered with the asylum seekers testimony.

Domestic violence survivors who have fled their husbands abroad after the police refused to help them may also benefit from asylum based on political opinion – i.e., their defiance or opposition represents their political belief regarding how women in marriages should be treated in their society.  But the violence alone is not enough to win an asylum case or successfully define a social group for purposes of gender-based asylum.  This is another common problem in these types of case:

  • Proving that the woman is a member of a social group that is defined by more than just the harm that comes to them. “Women who suffered domestic violence” in their home country is not enough to prove membership in a particular social group. In Matter of RA, the seminal asylum case based on domestic violence, the social group implicitly was based on the fact that the persecutor believed that women were to hold a subordinate position in the marriage and his wife’s refusal to do so resulted in the violence. The reasons why she was being persecuted went beyond just the fact that she was female.

Despite these challenges, attorneys have been successful in arguing both Domestic violence and varied types of gender-based asylum claims, despite the difficulty this area of asylum law presents. This is still an evolving area and the case law varies all over the country. To best improve your chances of approval, work with a team of asylum attorneys who regularly work on asylum cases and can easily spot any legal challenges you could face based on where your case is in the country and what stage in the case you are in – at USCIS or in defensive proceedings in removal court.  We work with clients all over the country, filing cases, helping assemble evidence, representing clients in crucial merits hearings in removal proceedings, and preparing clients and representing clients at USCIS asylum office interviews. Give us a call today to discuss your case and how we can help.

For more information about domestic violence-based asylum or gender asylum, click here or call us at 213.627.8997 today to book a detailed Case Evaluation appointment with an experienced family and removal immigration attorney.