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Gender-Based Criteria for Asylum

by Gabriel Eckstein and Gregg Epstein

Since the end of World War II, the subject of women's human rights has expanded far beyond its traditional realm. With this expansion, a debate has emerged concerning whether or not the values and mores championed by human rights activists, primarily of Western origin, threaten the cultural integrity of various peoples around the world.

This debate has become especially vehement in the United States where gender-based violence is a contentious issue in the context of asylum. Those who favor gender-based criteria for granting asylum generally contend that violence against women violates human rights and therefore can never be justified by cultural integrity. Those who oppose gender-based criteria argue that regardless of how onerous the violence may be, asylum must be restricted for true political refugees and must not be made available to those fleeing a social order they do not like.

The authors of this issue's Point/Counterpoint consider whether gender-based violence should be used as a grounds for granting asylum.

POINT: Gender Asylum Reflects Mistaken Priorities

Dan Stein is Executive Director of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), a Washington-based organization. Prior to heading FAIR, Mr. Stein was the Executive Director of the Immigration Reform Law Institute, a public interest litigation group that represented organizations in immigration and administrative law matters. He is a graduate of Indiana University and of Catholic University School of Law and has published many articles on immigration.

COUNTERPOINT: Women, Just Implementation of Asylum Policy, and Our Commitment to Human Dignity and Freedom

John Linarelli, a graduate of the Washington College of Law, is partner in the Washington, DC law firm of Braverman & Linarelli. He was counsel in In the Matter of M.K., a case of first impression in which a U.S. Immigration Court granted asylum on the basis of forcible female genital mutilation. Mr. Linarelli is also an adjunct professor at Georgetown University Law Center and Catholic University School of Law.

Point/Counterpoint is a regular feature of The Human Rights Brief. The purpose of the section is to encourage meaningful, intellectual discussion on contemporary issues in human rights and humanitarian law through the presentation of two diverse, though not necessarily opposing, opinions on the subject at hand. Commentaries for the Point/Counterpoint section are generally solicited by The Brief; however, the Editorial Board welcomes submissions, comments and suggestions. The newsletter does not facilitate exchange of the authors' compositions prior to publication. The views expressed in the Point/Counterpoint section are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of The Human Rights Brief, the Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, or their Directors or staff.

© Copyright 1996 The Human Rights Brief

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