Survivors International addresses the issue of gender-based violence—both the impact of this violence on its survivors and the pressing need to increase action and awareness, nationally and internationally.
The UN High Commission for Refugees defines gender-based violence as: “Violations of fundamental human rights that perpetuate sex-stereotyped roles that deny human dignity and the self-determination of the individual and hamper human development.” The term refers to, “physical, sexual and psychological harm that reinforces female subordination and perpetuates male power and control.” It further distinguishes “common violence from violence that targets individuals or groups of individuals on the basis of their gender [or sex].” (UNHCR, 2003)
Gender-Based Violence(GBV) refers to those individuals and groups who are the survivors of four types of violence and persecution:
1) Female genital cutting (FGC), defined by The World Health Organization as “all procedures involving the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs whether for cultural, religious or other non-therapeutic reasons.”
2) Domestic violence, which is rarely an isolated incident for the women experiencing it, but more often than not takes the form of an evolving and escalating pattern.
3) Persecution of sexual minorities. Homosexual activity between consenting adults continues to be punishable by death in many countries, and consensual sex is illegal between men in 76 countries and between women in 51. Trans-gendered individuals are also at grave risk for violence and discrimination worldwide.
4)Sexual assault, such as gang rape during war, andtrafficking, such as sexual exploitation and sexual slavery. Further, rape is increasingly being recognized as a persecutory act perpetrated with some regularity against sexual minority individuals.
Violence with impunity
Persecution of and violence against vulnerable individuals and populations frequently occurs without impediment, sanction, or redress despite numerous international treaties and declarations supporting human rights. Many countries retain discriminatory and flawed laws that result in impunity for perpetrators. Even when appropriate laws are in place they may not be uniformly upheld and enforced. In many states, customary or tribal law operates in tandem with statutory law, leading to limited recognition of or intervention to halt certain forms of persecution. In far too many instances, persons victimized by gender-based persecution and violence may not expect police authorities to intercede on their behalf and protect them from further harm. When this is the case, flight from one’s country of nationality may be the only option one has to protect oneself.
Thousands of women are now pursuing safe haven in the United States based on their fear of persecution at the hands of their husbands or other “non-state actors”—men and, in some cases, women in their homeland who violently abused them until they were forced to flee not just the home but their country. Others are seeking safety from Female Genital Cutting. Lesbians, gay men and transgender individuals are fleeing countries where violent abuse of people because of their sexual or gender orientation is commonplace.
Survivors International (SI) has found that our client GP survivors’ levels of trauma and the physical and psychological effects are comparable to the experiences of most torture survivors and has committed to providing crucial support to victims of gender-based violence.Furthermore, through the continued support of the Langeloth Foundation, Survivors International has expanded the Gender Asylum and Recovery Project to not only provide direct clinical services but enhance advocacy and research in the area of gender-based violence treatment for asylum seekers.
SI has committed to the promotion of a universal recognition that GP is an important category of systematic violence; to elevate awareness of GP survivors’ experiences and needs; to build capacity to serve this population; and to become a national and international support structure for GP survivors which works closely together with, and is partly modeled after, the torture rehabilitation movement. It is through tight-knit psycho-legal partnership that professional, applicable, and objective documentation can be provided to support asylum seekers.Furthermore, it is through that same network of partnerships that a quality continuum of care can be assured for each individual.To date, Survivors International and key partners, such as the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies (CGRS) at Hastings College of Law, has assisted 90% of the GARP cases that have been adjudicated to be granted asylum.
The Way Forward
Only in recent years—after pressure from refugees, asylum-seekers, and advocates—has the international community begun to recognize that GP is a legitimate basis for protection in the form of refugee status. The United Nations High Commission for Refugees has made clear its position that women who suffer gender-related harms can be recognized as refugees.
The Gender Asylum Project will continue its direct service work, building advocacy and educational tools to mainstream and widely replicate this model for treatment, while working with partners and policy-makers to strive for a more equitable social and political framework to support the victims of gender-based violence.
If you or your organization is interested in partnering with us in this campaign to end impunity for gender-based persecution and to enhance mental, legal and psychological services for victims of GBP and related asylum seekers, please contact Cecilia Lipp at email@example.com