The Culture of Rights Protection in Canadian Refugee Law: Examining the Domestic Violence Cases

By Arbel, Efrat | McGill Law Journal, March 2013 | Go to article overview

The Culture of Rights Protection in Canadian Refugee Law: Examining the Domestic Violence Cases


Arbel, Efrat, McGill Law Journal


This article examines Canadian refugee law cases involving domestic violence, analyzed through a comparison with cases involving forced sterilization and genital cutting. Surveying 645 reported decisions, it suggests that Canadian adjudicators generally adopted different methods of analysis in refugee cases involving domestic violence, as compared with these other claims. The article argues that Canadian adjudicators rarely recognized domestic violence as a rights violation in itself but, instead, demonstrated a general predisposition toward finding domestic violence persecution in cultural difference. That is, adjudicators tended to recognize domestic violence claimants not as victims of persecutory practices but rather as victims of persecutory cultures. The article suggests that this approach establishes incorrect criteria by which to evaluate domestic violence claims, for two main reasons. First, this approach does not accord due weight to complex factors besides culture that make women vulnerable to persecution in domestic settings. Second, this approach erects legal and conceptual barriers for women who cannot authentically narrate their experience through the script of cultural vulnerability or who cannot present as "victims of culture". The article posits that characterizing the violence suffered by refugee women as a product of culture does more than erect barriers for refugee claimants; it also operates as a protective device that suppresses the commonality of domestic violence across cultures and elides its domestic prevalence. The article concludes by suggesting that this approach replicates problematic assumptions about gender violence and gender difference that make it harder to address domestic violence both abroad and at home.

Cet article examine les cas canadiens de droit des refugies impliquant de la violence familiale, analyses par le biais d'une comparaison avec les cas de sterilisation forcee et de mutilations genitales.'Parcourant 645 decisions publiees, il suggere que les arbitres canadiens ont en general adopte differentes methodes d'analyse dans le cas des refugies de violence familiale, par rapport aux autres affaires. L'article soutient que les arbitres canadiens reconnaissent rarement la violence domestique comme une violation des droits en soi, mais au contraire, ont montre une predisposition generale a reconnaitre des situations violence domestique dans la difference culturelle. Autrement dit, les arbitres ont tendance a reconnaitre les demandeurs subissant de la violence conjugale non pas comme des victimes de pratiques de persecution, mais plutot comme des victimes de cultures persecutrices. L'article suggere que cette approche etablit des criteres errones d'evaluation des allegations de violence conjugale pour deux raisons principales. Tout d'abord, cette approche n'a pas accorde assez d'importance aux facteurs complexes, qui s'additionnent a la question la culture et qui rendent les femmes vulnerables a la persecution dans leur milieu familial. Ensuite, cette approche erige des barrieres juridiques et conceptuelles pour les femmes qui ne peuvent pas authentiquement raconter leur experience a travers le script de vulnerabilite culturelle ou qui ne peuvent pas se presenter comme des << victimes de leur culture >>. L'article avance que la caracterisation de la violence subie par les femmes refugiees comme un produit de la culture fait plus que d'eriger des barrieres pour les demandeurs d'asile; il fonctionne egaiement comme un dispositif de protection qui supprime le caractere commun de la violence domestique a travers les cultures et elude sa prevalence locale. L'article conclut en suggerant que cette approche reproduit des hypotheses problematiques de la violence entre les sexes et de la difference des sexes qui rendent difficile la lutte contre la violence domestique a l'etranger et a la maison.

Introduction

I.    The Legal Framework
         A. The Refugee Definition All Overview
         B. … 

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