Gender in Focus: Refugee Women and Asylum (Part 2)

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Millions of refugees flee war-torn states to the EU each year. With the atrocities in Syria, the number of arrivals have magnified generously. And more women are coming to the EU in search of protection from such conflict-ridden states. The 2011 recast EU Qualification Directive, which sets the minimum standards for the acceptance of refugees, aims to provide uniform aid all those who have been persecuted, tortured, or victims of conflict within all EU countries. Yet, the Directive has not been adhered to by all EU-member states, especially when it pertains to women. Not all EU member countries recognise ‘gender’ as a social group that can make a claim to asylum because many perceive it to encompass too vast and diverse a population of women. As a result, many of them do not recognise SGBV, FGM, and other types of gender-based violence towards women as forms of persecution. And for those female arrivals fleeing severe circumstances, having undergone and still continuously facing violence and discrimination towards them on account of their gender, the directive has completed only part of the effort necessary to provide them with a new beginning.

Although the recast EU Qualification Directive attempts to provide a gender-inclusive definition of the grounds needed to make a claim to asylum, it does not elaborate upon ‘acts of a gender-specific nature’ which include suppression of a woman’s political opinion or religious identity in their country of origin. For example, women and girls escaping compulsory FGM in societies such as Guinea have been successful in obtaining asylum on the grounds of suppressed political opinion, not gender-based violence. Expanding the directive to include acts of a gendered nature as grounds to claim asylum would encourage harmonisation in the application of the Directive among EU member states. EU-wide policy-making reform targeted at being more gender-focused would do better to ensure the protection of women who have endured gender-based discrimination in their home countries.

In general, the EU-wide gender-blind approach to receiving and protecting female arrivals still has severe systemic failings in response to the risks faced by women en route to their destination in the EU. With the introduction of more gender-inclusive and gender-specific policies, more gender-specific services, such as separate distribution lines for food, separate WASH facilities, and separate sleeping accommodations, can be given to refugee women and their families. And with changes in policy-making, more protection and aid can be issued to women, many of whom endure dangerous circumstances en route to their final destinations.

This is what we here, at She Matters, believe should happen in order for the women we serve to be socially and economically empowered. In order for labour integration of female refugees to take place, we must encourage more gender-inclusive and gender-specific policies directed at these female arrivals. Our upcoming International Humanitarian Studies Association panel putting ‘Gender in Focus’ aims to advocate on behalf of these women in the realm of policy-making.

For more information about the panel, please visit:

Rhea MalviyaGender in Focus: Refugee Women and Asylum (Part 2)

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