Women can suffer from persecution because of their sex. Each country has specific laws related to women in terms of how women should be treated by men. The laws are sometimes based on traditions and culture in that particular country. The law of genital mutilation for example is persecutory in itself. The international human rights law and criminal law condemns such practices that directly violate women’s rights to choice and liberty. Yet, each refugee claimant has to prove at the Canadian refugee division that they are persecuted in their countries. They have to prove that they are subjected personally to barbarian practices. Some countries have prohibition in practicing traditions where women are violated, however if a state is unable to stop the implementation of cultural practices that cause violence and abuse then international law must protect those claimants in Canada. For instance, in Israel, a country that I have expertise as counsel in, the state doesn’t have laws encouraging domestic violence against women, nevertheless the cultural perception of a woman is that she has to be submitted to her man allowing domestic violence to flourish.

The state of Israel recognizes a lack of proper training within the police force and many police officers when dealing with domestic violence cases advise women not to provoke their men, some of which are clearly sympathetic to men who “discipline” their wives. If a woman who is a refugee claimant proves that her complaints to police were turned a blind eye upon, her claim may be well-founded. It is of course hard to prove an officer’s indifference in handling domestic violence cases, but an experienced counsel may find circumstantial evidence in addition to material evidence to prove that a woman’s claim was overlooked or abandoned. For example, I had a case where a woman complained several times to police authorities, she had material proof that her claim was taken into consideration, yet she didn’t have a clear letter from police refusing her claim. She also did not have a letter stating that her claim was processed and taken into courts. I examined her case carefully and through a series of questions she confessed that after her fifth complaint, she was invited into the police department and had a private conversation with an official. This official orally advised her that her husband wouldn’t be touched by the police because he was a respectable member of the small local community. My client was also advised by the official to try to please her husband in order to prevent further violence. We described the circumstances of her visit to the police officer in detail in her basis of claim form and allowed her to make an oral testimony before the refugee division. The claimant explained in detail how she met the officer, the day of her meeting, she recalled his name, and that she recognized him as one of the guests in her home. Her overall testimony was plausible and therefore credible in the eyes of the panel.

Some laws, as a reflection of specific traditions and culture, do not have to conform to international laws. However if the penalty for non compliance to such laws is disproportionally severe, it can be amounted to persecution. Examples of such laws are forced abortions and sterilizations because they breach fundamental human rights law to life and liberty. Again, a particular claimant has to prove on a balance of probability that they were personally subjected to those laws.

What is a well-founded fear of persecution in gender-related refugee claims?

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