Gender-Based Asylum Law in the United Kingdom

The United Kingdom first published gender-specific guidance for asylum cases in 2000 when it released the “Asylum Gender Guidelines.” (PDF, 65 pages).  This guidance was then updated in 2004 and again in 2006 with the release of “Asylum Policy Instruction: Gender Issues in the Asylum Claim.” (PDF, 14 pages).  Although there has been some criticism that the Home Office is not closely following this guidance when adjudicating cases, these standards as a whole are in line with UNHCR guidance.  Home Office guidelines from 2006, revised in 2008, require claim adjudicators to keep a gender-sensitive perspective regardless of the UN ground category that the claimant is using.


The decision maker should be aware that the experiences of women in their countries of origin may sometimes differ from those of men, and that protest, activism and resistance may manifest themselves in different ways. Certain types of persecution and ill-treatment will be specific to and more commonly affect women. Social and cultural norms may affect the ability of an applicant to obtain effective protection and could also result in a reluctance to disclose relevant information. This may be particularly relevant when considering applications from women.

In addition, the 2006 guidelines allow for asylum claims in the following situations:

  • Discrimination: Women subjected to discriminatory treatment either by legal, social, or religious norms
  • Failure of State to Protect: Women who have no effective means of legal recourse from gender-based discrimination
  • Internal Flight/Relocation: The home country’s places of internal relocation would also subject the women to gender-based persecution
  • Trafficking: Trafficked women who would face serious repercussions or discrimination upon returning to their home country

Like the United States, the United Kingdom has granted asylum to applicants who leave their home country to avoid female genital mutilation. One important case was Zainab Esther Fornah v. Secretary of State for the Home Department (House of Lords 2007), in which the United Kingdom granted asylum to a 19 year old woman who fled Sierra Leone to avoid female genital mutilation. For more information on FGM and asylum, please visit the United States Law and Policy subsection.