Gender and asylum


The position of women in the society is one that has been misunderstood for a long time in many societies. As a result of this situation, women have suffered all forms of discrimination even from people who they would expect to protect them.  Many societies especially in the less developed nations are patriarchal in nature and this means that women have little or no say even in matters that directly relates to them. Even in the most advanced societies, there was a time in history when gender discrimination was of the same magnitude such as in the developing countries. It is only through struggle for their rights that women in the developed countries were able to get their rights and eliminate the discrimination in those societies. For example, in the history of America, women were discriminated against and it is only after the declaration of their rights in the Seneca Falls convention that their role in the society started to be respected. The situation is no the situation is no different for women seeking asylum as they face wide spread discrimination as compared to their male counterparts. The situation is made worse by the fact that women form the majority of asylum seekers. During times of civil strife, it is women who move to other countries in search of safety while most men remain behind handling the situation.

The historical gender discrimination that exists even today does not make the situation of women asylum seekers any better. Women may seek asylum in a country where the rights of women are down trodden. The situation of such women in those countries will be worse considering the negative perceptions that are associated with asylum seekers in general. In most countries, including the developed countries, asylum seekers are viewed as a source of competition and therefore a threat to economic opportunities that exist in those countries. These asylum seekers are therefore not welcome in those countries are treated as less important as compared to the local people. The situation can be worse in those countries that harbor other forms of discrimination such as racial discrimination. In such countries, women seeking asylum will not only be discriminated as aliens, but also as women and people of color.

Women as compared to men have many reasons that can force them to seek asylum. Unfortunately, it is hard for these women to get legal recognition in those countries where they seek asylum as the authorities in those countries may fail to recognize some of those reasons as genuine. One of the reasons that make women to seek asylum is their sexuality. Women who have a different sexual orientation such as lesbians may move from their country where their sexual orientation is not acceptable to other countries where they feel they can be accommodated. However, these women face difficulties when applying for legal recognition as it is sometimes hard for them to speak about their sexuality. This is made worse considering that the women may be required to prove their case before a panel that comprises even men. In such situations, women may not feel comfortable talking about sensitive issues especially those relating to their sexuality. The effect is that these women may fail to secure their legal rights to be accepted as legal asylum seekers as they will not be in a position to express themselves in such situations.

Gender based violence is another serious issue that women asylum seekers face. Some women may end up getting married in the foreign countries where they have sought asylum. The hard life as an asylum seeker can be a motivating factor for these women to get into these relationships that end up in marriage. What some of these women are looking for is to escape from the hardships that are associated with asylum seekers. In some cases, these women may end up up in abusive marriages where they are brutally beaten by their partners. These women sometimes end up being helpless and remain in abusive marriages without getting any form of help. In some countries, it is normal for women to be battered and such cases are viewed as normal and acceptable in the society (Healey, 2013). The victims would therefore see no need for reporting such cases and they will end up suffering in silence for a long time. For those who may decide to report these cases, they are usually dismissed by the police or those in authority. To the police, these are domestic issues that should be solved at domestic level. The police are also not enlightened about how to handle gender based violence and they therefore end up dismissing these cases.

There are some theories that have been used to explain why violence and discrimination against women has been going on for long in the society. One of such theory is the feminist theory that examines power inequalities between men and women as the main cause of discrimination in the society. The theory holds that there is unequal distribution of power between men and women in the society. This discrimination is embedded in the societal fabric and it is generally accepted that men should use violence towards women. When men are aggressive towards women therefore, it is viewed as a socially acceptable phenomenon and very little attention is given to such a situation. The theory also holds that the victims of this violence should just accept their fate as it is part of the societal culture. The theory also socializes women to be nonviolent and therefore they should not retaliate once their husbands are aggressive towards them.

There have been efforts at the international level to come up with a framework that will ensure that the rights of women are respected. Different international bodies that are involved in fighting for the rights of women have come up with guidelines that would ensure that the rights of women asylum seekers are respected. One of such organization is the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women based in Geneva. This organization in 2014 formulated guidelines that were aimed at ensuring that the rights of women asylum seekers were respected (Corlett, 2015). These guidelines were based on the realization of the difficulties that are faced by women asylum seekers. The guidelines were also informed by the realization that women living in a state of displacement or statelessness need to have their rights understood and enforced.

These guidelines start by noting that women face a lot of challenges that can prompt them to move from their country and seek asylum in other countries. The organization notes that gender based persecutions as well as armed conflicts are the leading causes for women to seek asylum. The committee also notes that the failure of the host countries to promote the rights of the asylum seekers also to some extent exacerbates the situation. The committee notes that in most countries there are no structures that have been put in place to ensure that the situation of asylum seekers is adequately managed. For example, there should be structures put in place to ensure that the asylum seekers are integrated in the society (Slingenberg, 2016). This is however not the case as this group of people is segregated and secluded into camps where they receive minimum aid that is barely to enough to ensure their survival. Asylum seekers are in some countries especially poor countries viewed as burdens and a drain to the resources of the country. As such, very little aid and help is offered to these people. In addition to this, these countries do not put in place proper structures to ensure that the asylum seekers are safely returned to their countries once the situation that forced then to seek asylum is over.

Failure to take into consideration the special needs of women asylum seekers has been noted by this committee as the leading cause of the many problems that are faced by these women. As compared to men, women have their own unique problems which they are the only ones who are better positioned to address them. The approaches that are used to collect data relating to the plight of asylum seekers as noted by the committee is skewed and does nor result into the collection of useful data that can result in the problems of women being adequately addressed. In some countries, the asylum authorities only restrict themselves to interviewing males about the problems that they face. The reason that they only interview male is that they consider them as the head of the families and therefore they can speak on behalf of their entire families. This approach is however flawed as there are some special problems that women experience and they are the only ones who can be in a position to express these problems (Masocha, 2015). As such, women should be given the opportunity to express themselves in these interviews as they can be able to articulate their problems as opposed to when this role is left to men. In addition to this, the family heads may be the main problem causing difficulties in the lives of women. As such, there is no way that they will betray themselves.

The committee provides recommendations that can be followed in order to eliminate the problems that are faced by women asylum seekers. One of the recommendations is that countries and states should make it possible for women to independently lodge asylum applications. In this way, it will be possible for women who travel to these countries without their husbands to apply for asylum. The current law that exists in some countries that require people to apply for asylum as couple prohibits those women who are not married or those who have moved to these countries alone to seek asylum. This recommendation urges countries to consider these women as part of a larger family that is seeking asylum.

The committee also recommends that countries and states should recognize human trafficking especially trafficking of women as part of gender based persecution. Since women form the largest percentage of individuals being trafficked. This should therefore raise a lot of concerns as this is a serious problem that affects women. Victims of trafficking should be made aware of their rights to seek asylum as most of them do not know them. In addition, structures should be put in place to help these victims navigate through the process of asylum seeking.

Other international bodies such as UNCHR have also been widely involved in the protection of the rights of women asylum seekers. This commission noted that women asylum seekers face persecution which is not the case with male asylum seekers. As such, these women should be helped to overcome these challenges. The commission recommended that countries should come up with a framework that will make it easy for women asylum seekers to have their rights enforced (Dalton, 2014). In response to this call, countries such as the United States came up with an elaborate gender framework that was aimed at protecting the rights of women asylum seekers. The problem however was in the implementation of these guidelines. The implementation was left solely to the high ranking immigration officers who had the discretion of enforcing these frameworks. Unfortunately, there was no follow up and the guidelines were rarely enforced.

In conclusion, women asylum seekers have been experiencing major challenges as compared to their male counterparts. Traditional practices and culture that emphasize on power inequalities are largely to blame for this situation. There is also poor implementation of the policies that have been put in place to help the asylum seekers. There are no clear monitoring frameworks that have been put in place to ensure that the policies that have been formulated are enforced. There should be efforts to ensure that there are regulatory bodies that ensure that all the policies that have been formulated to help asylum seekers are adequately enforced to ensure that they achieve their objectives.

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  1. Corlett, D. 2015. The Forgotten Asylum Seekers. AQ: Australian Quarterly, 77(5), 27-32.
  2. Dalton, D. 2014. Refugees & asylum seekers. Oxford: Heinemann Library. London: Hodder Children’s.
  3. Healey, J. 2013. Asylum seekers and immigration detention. Thirroul, N.S.W.: Spinney Press.
  4. Masocha, S. 2015. Asylum seekers, social work and racism. N.S.W.: Spinney Press.
  5. Slingenberg, L. 2016. The reception of asylum seekers under international law: between sovereignty and equality.
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