The Scholar: St. Mary's Law Review on Race and Social Justice


Spencer Kyle


Women and children make up the vast majority of the world’s refugee population. However, in the United States, the majority of successful applicants are men. Asylum seekers who assert claims of domestic violence are largely unsuccessful. The current immigration laws do not take gender into account when determining societal factors for obtaining asylum. People often misinterpret most foreign domestic violence allegations as differences of religion or cultural practices. Many believe domestic violence against women is solely a private issue and not the product of a political or social system designed to make women inferior to men. This dichotomy allows people to believe violence against women is somehow less severe and undeserving of government protection. There is also a fear allowing women to escape coverture in their homelands will open a floodgate of similar asylum cases. Cases involving persecution because of race or religion do not share these same concerns. The outcomes of domestic violence asylum claims are inconsistent. Congress should pass legislation to address the issue in order to ensure fairness and humane application of the law. The United States asylum adjudication system lags behind the international community in protecting victims of domestic violence. Gender stereotypes contribute to United States adjudicators’ failure to expand protection to domestic violence victims. The existing flawed definitional framework requires the victim to prove their abusers’ intent. The United States needs to create an example for other countries that all violence is unacceptable. A statutory protection for domestic asylum applicants would not only advance national security interests and humanitarian policies but would also send an international message that the U.S. will not tolerate domestic violence.

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St. Mary's University School of Law



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