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the U.S. as an asylum for battered women

The Obama administration recently created a new policy that allows foreign women who are the victims of severe domestic violence to receive asylum in the United States.

The policy outlines that to receive asylum, women must show that they are:

"treated by their abuser as subordinates and little better than property...and that domestic abuse is widely tolerated in their country. They must show that they could not find protection from institutions at home or by moving to another place within their own country."

One such moving story is that of L.R. (identity protected), a Mexican woman who, according to San Francisco court documents, had an abusive partner who:

"made her live with him, and forced her to have sex with him by putting a gun or a machete to her head, by breaking her nose and threatening to kill the small children of her sister. Once when she became pregnant, she said, she barely escaped alive after he had poured kerosene on the bed where she was sleeping and ignited it. He stole the salary she earned as a teacher and alter sold hre teacher's license." 

Local police dismissed her reports as a "private matter." A local judge from whom she sought help tried to seduce her. An immigration  judge under the Bush administration denied her asylum claim in 2006, as did Bush administration lawyers, claiming that she did not meet the standards of American asylum law.

I think that this policy is an incredibly positive step in that the Obama administration is clearly recognizing the seriousness of domestic violence, and how it is a problem that persists globally. I'm glad that more victims of domestic violence will have access to this kind of asylum.

However, I worry about this policy in the way women have to prove that they tried to seek protection from local institutions or by moving within their country before exploring this option. Often in abusive relationships, especially in ones as severe as these cases, it is almost impossible for the victim to leave the abuser, for physical and mental/emotional reasons.

Obviously I understand why this is part of the policy -- if women can find help in their own countries it's preferable to leaving. I'm just not sure how often abused women are going to be able to meet these standards.

The other downside -women fleeing gential mutilation are not granted asylum under this policy.

Altogether, I think this is a positive policy, a good move on the part of the Obama administration. But it needs to be said that there are still many issues surrounding domestic violence that need to be addressed, and are not addressed in this policy.

Via: New York Times



More articles by Category: Feminism, Politics, Violence against women
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Julie Zeilinger
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