Additional convention themes - Migrant women, women asylum-seekers and women refugees


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Additional convention themes

Migrant women, women asylum-seekers and women refugees

Migrant women, with or without documents, and women asylum-seekers are particularly vulnerable to gender-based violence. Although their reasons for leaving their country vary, as does their legal status, both groups are at increased risk of violence and face similar difficulties in overcoming it. For this reason, the convention prohibits discrimination on the grounds of migrant or refugee status when it comes to implementing its provisions. It also requires that measures be taken to prevent such violence and support victims while taking into account the needs of vulnerable persons.

Moreover, the convention devotes an entire chapter to women migrants and asylum-seekers facing gender-based violence. It contains a number of obligations that aim at generating a gender-sensitive understanding of violence against migrant women and women asylum-seekers. For example, it introduces the possibility of granting migrant women, who are victims of domestic violence and whose residence status depends on that of their spouse or partner, with their own residence permit when the relationship ends. This allows a victim of domestic violence to leave the relationship without loosing her residence status. It also creates, for instance, the obligation to allow migrant victims who left and then did not return to the country they migrated to because they were forced into marriage in another country to regain their residence status.

Furthermore, the chapter includes provisions establishing the obligation to recognise gender-based violence against women as a form of persecution within the meaning of the 1951 Refugee Convention and contains the obligation to ensure that a gender-sensitive interpretation be given when establishing refugee status.

It is important to note that women seeking asylum have specific protection concerns and worries that are different to those of men. In particular, women may be fleeing gender-based violence but may be unable or unwilling to disclose relevant information during a refugee determination process that does not respect cultural sensitivities. Furthermore, unaccompanied women are often exposed to sexual harassment and sexual exploitation and are unable to protect themselves. In order to address the particular issues linked to women asylum-seekers, the convention establishes the obligation to introduce gender-sensitive procedures, guidelines and support services in the asylum process. Introducing a gender perspective into procedures allows for differences between women and men to be taken into account.

Another provision that is included in the convention reiterates the obligation to respect a well established principle of asylum and of international refugee protection, which is the principle of non-refoulement. The convention establishes the obligation to ensure that victims of violence against women, who are in need of protection, regardless of their status or residence, are not returned to any country where their life would be at risk or where they may be subjected to torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.