Sixty years of silence: Gender discrimination under International Refugee Law

Karjala, Tuuli Maria (2016-03)

Thesis (LLD)--Stellenbosch University, 2016

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT : Gender-related violence is a global pandemic affecting millions of women worldwide. Yet, in many instances, states continue to tolerate and indirectly condone the various forms that it takes. In cases where the gender-related violence amounts to persecution because of its severity and the lack of state protection, victims are left with a drastic solution: to flee and seek refuge in another country. However, international refugee law, as one of the final mechanisms to protect basic human rights, has proved to be inadequate to provide sufficient protection for victims of gender-related persecution. This dissertation argues that the definition of ‘refugee’ under international refugee law is obsolete and in dire need of reconceptualisation in order to adequately encompass the unique persecution that women face because of their gender. Therefore, this dissertation seeks to establish the reasons behind the inadequate protection of victims of gender-related persecution. To examine this question, the dissertation carries out a detailed analysis of various aspects that have an impact on the interpretation and implementation of the international refugee law framework. As a result of this analysis, the dissertation demonstrates how the historical events that took place at the time of the drafting of the main international refugee law instruments impacted their substance and resulted in a heavily androcentric focus. Similarly, this dissertation reveals how the patriarchal nature of the international law regime as a whole has had a negative impact on gender-related asylum claims. Moreover, it discloses the asylum adjudicators’ gender-biased construction of ‘persecution’ and analyses the difficult fit between gender-related persecution and the nexus requirement under the 1951 Refugee Convention. Furthermore, this dissertation takes the important step of examining the manners in which the current protection afforded by international refugee law to victims of gender-related persecution can be improved and developed, and it analyses best practices. Ultimately, based on this in-depth analysis, this dissertation’s key contribution to the field of international refugee law is the identification of the emerging recognition of gender as an independent category of persecution to the existing ‘refugee’ definition. This addition will have a fundamental impact on the gender-equal application of international refugee law and, importantly, on the protection of women’s human rights worldwide

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING : Geslagsgebaseerde geweld is ‘n wêreldwye pandemie wat miljoene vroue affekteer. Dog word hierdie probleem deur vele state verdra en selfs indirek gekondoneer. In sulke gevalle waar hierdie geweld tot vervolging lei as gevolg van die erns daarvan, sowel as die gebrek aan staatsbeskerming daarteen, het dit ‘n drastiese impak op die slagoffers. Hulle beste oplossing is dikwels om uit hul land te vlug en asiel in ander lande te probeer bekom. Die internasionale reg van toepassing op vlugtelinge as een van die finale regsinstrumente om basiese menseregte te beskerm, is egter nie altyd voldoende om genoegsame beskerming vir dié slagoffers te bied nie. Hierdie tesis probeer illustreer dat die omskrywing van “vlugteling” onder die internasionale reg daarop uitgedien is en dat daar ‘n dringende behoefte aan herformulering is, om die besondere vervolging van vroue as ‘n direkte gevolg van hul geslag voldoende te reflekteer. Om dit te kan bewerkstellig, poog hierdie tesis om die redes vir die ondoeltreffende beskerming van slagoffers van geslagsgebaseerde vervolging te identifiseer. Hierdie kwessie word ondersoek deur ‘n gedetailleerde analiese van verskeie elemente wat ‘n impak het op die interpretasie en implementering van die raamwerk van die internasionale reg op vlugtelinge. Na aanleiding van dié analiese, demonstreer hierdie tesis die impak wat die historiese gebeurtenisse ten tye van die opstel van die vernaamste internasionale regsinstrumente op vlugtelinge op hul inhoud gehad het, en wat gelei het tot hul sterk androsentriese fokus. Insgelyks onthul die tesis hoe die patriargale aard van die internasionale reg oor die algemeen geslagsgebaseerde asielaansoeke negatief beïnvloed het. Verder openbaar hierdie tesis die geslagsvooroordeelde samestelling waarmee asielbesluitnemers vervolg, en dit analiseer die onverenigbaarheid tussen geslagsgebaseerde vervolgings en die nexus vereiste onder die 1951 Refugee Convention. Belangrik tot hierdie tesis is die indiepte ondersoek na verbeteringe en ontwikkeling van die huidige beskerming verleen aan die slagoffers van geslagsgebaseerde vervolgings deur die internasionale reg daarop, asook die ontleding van beste praktyke. Deurslaggewend tot hiedie tesis is die identifisering van ‘n ontluikende gewoontereg wat geslag as ‘n onafhanklike vervolgingskategorie as deel van die “vlugteling” omskrywing beskou. Hierdie toevoeging sal ‘n grondliggende effek hê op die geslagsgelyke toepassing van die internasionale reg op vlugtelinge, veral die beskerming van vroueregte wêreldwyd.

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