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Domestic Violence is a Form of Persecution

PHR condemns U.S. move to deny asylum to survivors of domestic abuse

For Immediate Release

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) strongly condemns the decision by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to revoke international legal protection, in the form of asylum, for survivors of domestic violence. Sessions’ unilateral decision, which is diametrically opposed to a time-honored precedent by the United States which characterizes domestic violence survivors as worthy of asylum protection, flies in the face of international jurisprudence.

Immigration courts in refugee-receiving countries all over the world have consistently determined that domestic violence survivors can and do deserve international protection. Countries that have signed the International Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, which includes the United States, are required to interpret the provisions in a gender-sensitive manner, including types of persecution which may be specific to women.

Kathryn Hampton, PHR’s Asylum Network program officer, who spoke out recently on this issue, said that PHR has received more than 1,700 requests for forensic evaluations of asylum seekers fleeing domestic violence.
“PHR medical experts have clinically documented the level of trauma suffered by domestic violence survivors, and their findings are clear: for many domestic violence survivors, denial of their asylum claim is a matter of life or death,” Hampton said.

“Violence against women takes place every day and remains one of the most widespread human rights violations in the world. In many countries around the globe there is an epidemic of neglect by authorities: police turn a blind eye, courts do not issue restraining orders or other protective measures, and national legislative frameworks do not have adequate mechanisms for punishing offenders and protecting victims. Social attitudes support the horrifying obligation that women must remain in a relationship, even if abused, such that there is nowhere for victims to go. Even if they move to other neighborhoods or other cities, they are not able to find safety,” Hampton added.

“Nations, like the United States, where women are able to access adequate forms of protection, have a moral obligation to offer asylum and to protect those who flee persecution. International refugee law requires all states to offer asylum to a survivor who has been persecuted based on five protected grounds and has found that their government is unwilling or unable to offer the most basic forms of protection. Through his latest decision, Sessions is egregiously overstepping the mandate of his office by revoking that protection.”

Read about PHR’s Asylum Program.

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to prevent mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.

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