The irb guidelines and women refugee claimants

Every year Canada encounters and deals with an increasing number of asylum claims by women that are citizens of different countries, seeking protection and a safe haven on Canadian Soil. The Magnitude of the problem is the fact that abuses such as beatings, rape, genital mutilation, arranged marriages and so on; are not just under-recorded and under-reported, but the fact that governments/states of such abused women seeking protected status are not willing to offer protection and will always turn a blind eye on such horrendous events.

Women are trapped for years having to bear/endure violent and abusive relationships which have no legal recourse especially in underdeveloped countries. Is this right? Is this fair? Is this reasonable?

Of course not, that’s why nowadays many states recognize the importance of protecting women from abuse and punishing the perpetrators of violent and inhumane acts, but when the recipient states are unable to punish the perpetrators they are required to open their doors to such victimized women claimants.

In 1993 Canada was the first country from all the signatories to the UN Convention 1951 to issue the world’s first guidelines pertaining to Gender-related persecution.

The Canadian guidelines provide that:

“Women who fear persecution resulting from certain circumstances of severe discrimination on grounds of gender or acts of violence either by public authorities or at the hands of private citizens from whose actions the state is unwilling or unable to adequately protect the concerned person”.

But what is the gist behind such guidelines? The answer is clear; accommodating the claims of women who have been persecuted based on gender, women that approach Canada have a “well-founded fear of persecution” asking for protection from the Canadian government.

Over the years, Canada managed to develop through case law and the IRB guidelines an important and overall development in dealing with gender persecution in Refugee law.

There is no doubt whatsoever, that Canada’s advancement in gender-related issues/matters in Refugee law has made many countries/states admire and respect such developments; some have even followed a similar policy of accommodation.

No one can deny the fact that the issue of domestic violence/women gender related persecution is extremely complex. Women whose governments are unable or unwilling to provide reasonable protection from domestic violence may quality as a refugee under Canadian Immigration law.

But many continue to ask whether the IRB guidelines have made any difference?

Despite not being compelling, the main purpose of the IRB guidelines was to provide a framework of analysis pertaining to domestic violence as a human rights violation and as a basis for asylum/refugee protection. A remarkable progress has been made in alleviating the plight of such women refugee claimants fearing gender related persecution, proving to the world that Canada will continue to protect such refugee claimants that have lost such protection from the state which they fled.

Canada will ensure that it remains a safe haven to abused women that face such deplorable acts and fear returning to their home country.

Ahmad AlAzem
Immigration Program Student at Ashton College
under the tutelage of Jose Godoy Toku

Please visit:

Women Refugee Claimants Fearing Gender-related Persecution

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