Gender-Based Asylum Law in Canada

Canada was the first nation to publish guidelines specifically for the adjudication of gender-based asylum cases.  First published in 1993 and updated in 1996, “Guideline 4: Women Refugee Claimants Fearing Gender-Related Persecution” updated the Chairperson’s guidance as to how gender-related cases should be judged.  Guideline 4 seeks to address four critical issues raised by gender-based asylum cases.  These issues are:


  1. To what extent can women making a gender-related claim of fear of persecution successfully rely on any one, or a combination, of the five enumerated grounds of the Convention refugee definition?
  2. Under what circumstances does sexual violence, or a threat thereof, or any other prejudicial treatment of women constitute persecution as that term is jurisprudentially understood?
  3. What are the key evidentiary elements which decision-makers have to look at when considering a gender-related claim?
  4. What special problems do women face when called upon to state their claim at refugee determination hearings, particularly when they have had experiences that are difficult and often humiliating to speak about?

From: “Guideline 4: Women Refugee Claimants Fearing Gender-Related Persecution.”


By addressing such questions, Canada set international precedent for the handling of gender-based asylum cases.  The Canadian adjudication guidelines on this issue are, for the most part, in direct alignment with UNHCR guidance, and several countries have followed the Canadian model in addressing these issues.  The Compendium of Decisions for Guideline 4 contains summaries of significant cases where these principles have been applied.