Expert Evidence in Gender-Based Asylum Cases: Cultural Translation for the Court

Benders Immigration Bulletin Vol. 17(22) (2012)

99 Pages Posted: 31 Mar 2015

Date Written: 2012


This article examines the use of country conditions experts in gender-based asylum claims, with a focus on African women and girls facing gender-based violence in their countries of origin. Using anonymous case examples from the work of the Tahirih Justice Center's African Women's Empowerment Project, the article explores the role of experts and the critical bridge that experts can provide in asylum claims adjudicated at the asylum office and in immigration court. A brief overview of U.S. asylum law and procedures sets the stage for a deeper look at expert evidence.

In the context of gender-based asylum claims, experts often play a pivotal role in explaining gender-based violence by providing information and opinions on the political, social, cultural, familial, and economic contexts for this violence. That country conditions experts add a great deal to an asylum claim is nothing new, but this issue has taken on even more critical importance with the evolution of the law around "particular social group" and the introduction of the concepts of social visibility and particularity. This article addresses the role of experts in: (a) explaining conditions on the ground in the country of origin and corroborating an applicant's asylum claim; (b) providing evidence to establish that persecution was "on account of" one of the five statutory grounds for persecution (race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group); (c) examining situations in which non-state actors act as persecutors and in explaining government unwillingness or inability to protect an applicant from persecution; (d) assessing the legal structure of the country in question and how that legal structure intersects with the reality of attitudes toward certain groups or cultural practices. The article concludes with practice pointers for both attorneys and potential expert witnesses in working together to present gender-based asylum claims in the United States.

Keywords: gender-based asylum, asylum, country conditions, nexus, credibility, particular social group, female genital cutting, domestic violence, rape, forced marriage

Suggested Citation

Harris, Lindsay M, Expert Evidence in Gender-Based Asylum Cases: Cultural Translation for the Court (2012). Benders Immigration Bulletin Vol. 17(22) (2012) , Available at SSRN: or

Lindsay M Harris (Contact Author)

UDC David A. Clarke School of Law ( email )

4200 Connecticut Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20003
United States
202-274-7326 (Phone)


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