Forced Marriage and the Exoticization of Gendered Harms in United States Asylum Law

41 Pages Posted: 10 Feb 2011  

Jenni Millbank

University of Technology, Sydney, Faculty of Law

Catherine Dauvergne

University of British Columbia - Faculty of Law

Date Written: February 7, 2011

Abstract

While claims of forced marriage or pressure to marry represent only a tiny portion of refugee claims overall, they provide an illuminating sliver reflecting the major recurring themes in gender and sexuality claims from recent decades. Refusal to marry is a flashpoint for expressing non-conformity with expected gender roles for heterosexual women, lesbians and gay men.

This paper presents results from our study of 168 refugee decisions from Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States where part of the claim for refugee protection concerned actual or threatened forced marriage. In the present discussion, we highlight our findings from the cases from the United States while detailed findings regarding the broader international data set are published elsewhere.

We find that the United States is far behind Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom in terms of analyzing gender-related persecution. In addition to not finding a single case with a straightforward holding that forced marriage in and of itself could constitute persecution, we also did not find any engagement with international human rights standards. Of the few cases that were successful on a substantive basis, we found that the underlying facts reflect an extreme exoticization of the women involved.

Keywords: refugee law, gender, sexual orientation, forced marriage, domesic violence, FGM

JEL Classification: K33

Suggested Citation

Millbank, Jenni and Dauvergne, Catherine, Forced Marriage and the Exoticization of Gendered Harms in United States Asylum Law (February 7, 2011). Columbia Journal of Gender and Law, Vol. 19, No. 3, 2011. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1757283

Jenni Millbank (Contact Author)

University of Technology, Sydney, Faculty of Law ( email )

Australia

Catherine Dauvergne

University of British Columbia - Faculty of Law ( email )

1822 East Mall
Vancouver, British Columbia V6T 1Z1
Canada
604-822-6506 (Phone)
604-822-8108 (Fax)

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