The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Diana Duarte, Media Coordinator
(212) 627-0444;

A Step Forward: Survivors of Domestic Violence Now Eligible for Asylum in the US


With a recent court filing in the case of a woman from
Mexico seeking asylum in the US, the Obama Administration has signaled
a shift in immigration law to make it possible for women survivors of
severe domestic and sexual abuse to seek and obtain asylum.

In a marked departure from the Bush Administration position, the new
policy holds that battered women do meet the standard of membership in
a "persecuted group." This change in categorization by the Obama
Administration recognizes that domestic abuse is not simply a private
or family matter. Rather, it represents a violation of women's human
rights and merits consideration in asylum cases.

While this express change in policy creates possibilities for battered
women, it remains to be seen whether the unidentified Mexican woman in
the case in question will actually be granted asylum. The policy also
maintains strict limitations in order for women to qualify. Women must
be able to provide evidence of the severity of their abuse and of the
lack of recourse in their own countries. In one specific exception,
the shift in policy does not apply to women escaping genital mutilation.

MADRE welcomes this opening in US immigration law, calling for the full
realization and implementation of this important policy shift. We
emphasize that freedom of movement is a fundamental human right not
only for asylum seekers, but for all, and that additional policy
changes are needed to bring all of US immigration law into compliance
with the full range of international human rights standards.

Available for comment:

Mary Jane Real is a member of the MADRE Network of Experts.
She is a lawyer and women's human rights advocate from the Philippines,
who has worked on issues of domestic violence.

MADRE is an international women's human rights organization that partners with community-based women's groups to advance women's human rights, challenge injustice and create social change in contexts of war, conflict, disaster and their aftermath. MADRE advocates for a world in which all people enjoy individual and collective human rights; natural resources are shared equitably and sustainably; women participate effectively in all aspects of society; and all people have a meaningful say in policies that affect their lives. For more information about MADRE, visit