“MADRID, Spain, (UNHCR) – In a precedent-setting decision, the Spanish Inter-ministerial Asylum Commission has given refuge to a 38-year-old woman, who could not find protection from decades of suffering at the hands of her husband whom she had been forced to marry.The continuous abuse and severe beatings inflicted upon the woman by her husband in this case violated a number of her fundamental human rights. These include the right not to be subjected to torture, inhuman or degrading treatment and the right to life, liberty and security of person. The harm she suffered as a result of these human rights violations was found to be a direct result of her gender and her status as a married woman and was thus seen to constitute gender-specific persecution. In the EU context, the Qualification Directive also recognizes that acts of a gender-specific nature can constitute persecution.

Although gender-related persecution, in general, has increasingly been recognized in a growing number of states as falling within the scope of the 1951 Convention’s refugee definition, the fact that persecution in the form of domestic violence perpetrated by family members can, in certain situations, fall within the refugee definition is less widely accepted. This decision is therefore a welcome one.

Under Spanish law, UNHCR participates in the Eligibility Commission in an observer capacity and does not vote, but can give its opinion on any asylum application filed in Spain. UNHCR has consistently advocated that gender-related persecution can constitute persecution for one of the five reasons set out in the 1951 Convention and therefore that claimants with a well-founded fear of such treatment should be recognized as refugees.” [Read more]

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