Female genital mutilation as the basis for refugee status
: a particularised form of domestic violence

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    This thesis seeks to redress the inconsistent and inadequate treatment of gender-based claims for refugee status by decision-makers, focusing exclusively on the controversial cultural practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). Drawing upon the experiences of the UK, Canada and the US, argument is made that if FGM-based refugee claims were subjected to the protective processes implemented within specialised domestic violence courts, the refugee determination process (RDP) would be more inclusive and accommodating of the needs of claimants in a similar fashion to the approach taken in respects of domestic violence. To this end, the thesis argues that culturally recognized practices do not lose their criminal label just because some people demand that they be labelled as such. Secondly, it allows us to examine the protective functions of specialised domestic violence courts and programme for victims and how that shift in attitudes and practices might be replicated or mirrored in some shape or form within the RDP. The examined jurisprudence has revealed that the task of defining a just, humanitarian standard for a grant of refugee status in FGM cases is complex. Coupled with procedural and evidential barriers, in an era where States have tightened border controls, FGM claimants face great challenges in obtaining refugee status. The thesis reveals that the RDP is failing to meet the challenging claims brought by women, and that claimants are let down, both by an extremely poor standard of decision-making and by a non-gendered RDP. It contributes to the literature on FGM, particularly in respect of its categorization as a gender-based form of violence within the RDP. The thesis proposes several recommendations to potentially make the RDP gender-sensitive and accommodating for FGM claimants. Whilst the therapeutic objectives underpinning the specialised domestic violence courts cannot be directly transposed into the refugee determination context, lessons and best practices from these courts can help to inform a realistic and reasoned view on promoting a gendered partnership approach within the RDP.
    Date of AwardMay 2018
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorAnne Smith (Supervisor) & Ciaran White (Supervisor)


    • FGM
    • Domestic Violence
    • Gender Violence
    • Specialised Courts
    • Persecution

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