A Zimbabwean Author, Roben Mutwira, is asking women asylum seekers from sub-Saharan African to expose how they have suffered in their struggle to get asylum – in their countries of origin, along the way, and in the host countries where they ended up seeking asylum.
Many have chosen not to say how they suffered and how their lives were affected by the gender-based violence, but Mutwira said, telling their stories could help change attitudes against women victims of gender-based crime; could improve laws for women and could held get protection for many women asylum seekers.
“We are letting down our fellow asylum seekers by withholding stories that can make the likes of the United Kingdom Border Agency (UKBA) change their decisions on many relatives and friends that were persecuted because of their gender,” he said in the last chapter of his book, Asylum Seeking TRAUMA.
They were traumatised not because they are women but because most of these countries have governments, liberation movements and bandit organisations that fail to appreciate how gender-based violence traumatises women asylum seekers.
In his opinion it should be part of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)’s Refugee Convention as the failure of the initial UNHCR 1951 Refugee Convention to define persecution on grounds sexual orientation was partially responsible for the ongoing abuses.
Gender based asylum claims were put under the broad subheading “membership of a particular social group” in the 1951 Refugee Convention, so gender-based persecution, especially of women, has been either dismissed as common societal violence that is expected in unstable third world countries, and did not qualify to be cited as reason for asylum protection;
Or the gender-based claims have been re-defined and placed under the nearest alternative, often eroding the severity of the trauma in the process. Yet, says Mutwira, there is serious gender based persecution affecting asylum seekers all the time, and that should be the basis of asylum protection of many of our women asylum-seekers.”
Persecution is usually in the form of sexual assault, consist of rape, the use of electric current upon the sexual organs; mechanical stimulation of the erogenous zones; manual stimulation of the erogenous zones; the insertion of objects into the body-openings (with objects made of metal or other materials to which an electrical current is later connected); the forced witnessing of “unnatural” sexual relations; forced masturbation or to be masturbated by others; fellation and oral coitus; and finally, a general atmosphere of sexual aggression and threats of the loss of the ability to reproduce and enjoyment of sexual relations in future, according to the Office of the UNHCR, Geneva.
Other forms of gender violence that should included when women claim asylum are female genital mutilation, forced abortion and sterilisation and denial of access to contraception, depending on how they were enforced.
He said asylum applications based on gender violence needed to be considered in detail and in depth, and such factors as domestic slavery, trafficking and violence within the family had to also be linked to political violence, because most of them took place in politically volatile environments. See his full report here.