With guidance from the Harvard Law School Immigration and Refugee Clinic, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) has recently issued a comprehensive set of new rules providing asylum to abused women if their home countries fail to protect them.
“This is a critical development in the recognition that women asylum-seekers cannot be discriminated against, and must have equal access to asylum,” said Nancy Kelly, clinical supervisor with the Harvard Law School Immigration and Refugee Clinic and an attorney with Greater Boston Legal Services.
The INS move will require the reconsideration of key elements in a prior decision in which a Guatemalan woman, who was abused by her husband, was denied asylum.
“Finally our refugee law is in line with international authorities – the Canadians, Australians, New Zealand, and the House of Lords in the United Kingdom – and we have incorporated the basic principle that women’s rights are human rights and women’s rights are universal,” added Deborah Anker, director of the clinic.
By drafting historic gender guidelines adopted by the INS in 1995, the Law School Clinic was responsible for the first steps toward protecting women asylum-seekers. The clinic also co-authored a brief to Attorney General Janet Reno written on behalf of more than 50 scholars, law professors, and organizations asking her to reverse the initial decision in the Guatemalan case. The new rules provide that gender be included as one of the grounds in the refugee definition’s “particular social group” category.