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Deborah Anker, Women Refugees and the Development of US Asylum Law: 1980-present, 41 Refugee Surv. Q. 420 (2022).


Abstract: Abstract Over the past three decades, the US has developed a robust body of gender asylum law, including claims of women subject to sexual violence or other serious harm for reasons of gender. This body of law both reflects and has been a catalyst for larger shifts in US jurisprudence recognising the international treaty law basis of domestic asylum law. For years such progress was stymied by a dominant Cold War ideological decision-making paradigm and a woefully inadequate and politicised administrative bureaucracy. The growth of a domestic and international women’s rights movement, and more meaningful engagement by the US judiciary, have resulted in substantial changes. Although progress remains incomplete, today there is a significant body of administrative and federal judicial case law incorporating gender into the interpretation of key categories in refugee law, including gender-defined particular social groups (PSG) and gender-based claims under the political, race and religion grounds in the definition of refugee. These more principled developments have proven vulnerable to politics, particularly under the administration of President Donald J. Trump. However, a new approach, based in part on a clearer, regulatory articulation of doctrine, holds promise for the development of a more coherent and principled body of jurisprudence. This article places US gender asylum in the context of the larger political landscape (i.e., the Cold War, and post-Cold War politics). The article also attempts to draw the links between the development of gender asylum law and larger social and legal change movements, including a domestic and international women’s rights movements focused on issues of sexual violence and violence in the home or “domestic violence.”