Causes and Risk Factors for Gender-Based Persecution

The primary risk factor for gender-based persecution is living in a country where gender-discriminating religious or customary laws and practices are prevalent.  In a country where strict social norms for women are part of the ruling law, a woman found living outside of these social norms may experience persecution.  This may include honor killings for women who are suspected of adultery or intimate relations outside of marriage, or coercive population control where the government may persecute women who break the national reproduction laws through forced abortions or other violent means.  This risk factor applies not only to countries where such laws are part of the formal legal code, but also to countries where it is understood that any laws forbidding such types of persecution will not be enforced, thereby allowing non-state agents to act with implicit government approval.

Women in these countries are generally unable to obtain government assistance to stop the persecution and often must turn to an outside nation for assistance.  Whether the woman is applying for asylum because of persecution resulting from unjust laws in her home country or because the laws which would prevent such persecution are not being actively enforced is not particularly relevant: in most receiving countries, both cases are acceptable grounds for an asylum claim.  If the court hearing the asylum case can determine, however, that the woman has options for legal action in her home country, such as in-country relocation, which could result in the cessation of the persecution, the asylum claim will be denied.  For this reason, gender-based asylum cases typically originate only from countries where there is established evidence that gender-discriminatory practices or laws exist and evidence that the governments of these nations are either unwilling or unable to stop the persecution.