News Center for Human Rights, Gender & Migration Violence & Abuse

New report released on intimate partner violence and refugee protection in the Americas

Written by Kim Furlow, communications manager and Julia Uyttewaal, manager of the Center for Human Rights, Gender & Migration at the Institute for Public Health

Intimate partner violence is a serious global issue. The United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime recently reported that 50,000 women were killed by an intimate partner in 2017. This represents 58% of the total number of women intentionally killed during that period. In the Americas region specifically, which encompasses all countries in North and South America, intimate partner violence rates are high. One recent study estimates that one in three women between the ages of 15 and 49 have suffered physical and/or sexual violence at the hands of an intimate partner.

Moreover, the Americas have seen a dramatic increase in the numbers of people fleeing their homes, especially as a result of crises in Central America and Venezuela. This has put strain on asylum systems in countries of the Americas that have not traditionally been “destination countries.”

Given that many people seeking asylum are fleeing countries with high rates of intimate partner violence and given that exposure to conflict and forced displacement increases the risk of suffering this type of violence, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) faced a crucial question: What challenges affect survivors of intimate partner violence in the Americas who need to access refugee protection?

Today, the UNHCR, with researchers from Washington University’s Center for Human Rights, Gender and Migration and the University of California – Berkeley’s Human Rights Center, released a groundbreaking report that examines the treatment of intimate partner violence by asylum systems in Canada, Chile, Mexico, and Peru.

This is the first time that research on intimate partner violence and refugee protection has simultaneously examined North and South American countries. The report addresses legal and practical challenges related to the application, interview, and adjudication stages of protection claims. It also includes specific recommendations for individual duty-bearers to improve treatment of this common, but often ignored, form of persecution.

The report is available here in English. It is forthcoming in Spanish.