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Appendix 04: Fears of Mutilation and Death
Monday, January 01, 1900


he story of Rodi A.

What about women fleeing domestic violence? Should they be accorded refugee status?

Rodi was 16 when she married Francisco in Guatemala. Her husband brutally beat her and vowed to kill her. "Francisco raped and sodomized Rodi, broke windows and mirrors with her head, dislocated her jaw, and tried to abort her child by kicking her violently in the spine. Besides using his hands and his feet against her, he also resorted to weapons —pistol-whipping her and terrorizing her with his machete."

Rodi’s repeated attempts to obtain protection failed. The police and the courts refused to intervene because it was a "domestic matter" and because her husband was a former army soldier. Rodi fled to the United States, where her case has been unresolved for the past ten years. Under the Clinton administration she was granted asylum, and the government "issued proposed regulations clarifying that victims of domestic violence and other gender-related persecution are eligible for asylum. However, these proposed regulations never became final." Bush Administration Attorney General John Ashcroft considered deporting Ms. Alverado back to Guatemala, but Justice Department attorneys prevailed and the case still awaits decision. (Dr. Maryann Cusimano Love, Beyond Sovereignty, Thomson-Wadsworth, p. 190)

Women seek asylum for different reasons than do men. According to Dr. Maryann Cusimano-Love, the international definition of "refugee" has been interpreted primarily in the context of male asylum-seekers, to the prejudice of women refugees. Many times women are victims of gender-specific crimes, such as genital mutilation, forced abortions, "honor killings" and governmentally-protected spousal abuse. All of these crimes are likely to occur in societies that espouse male domination of the family unit at the expense of equality between the sexes.

For example, the Taliban in Afghanistan force women to be completely subservient to their husbands. "Honor killings" of women who have been deemed to have offended their families have been reported not only in Afghanistan, but also Ecuador, Egypt, India, Iran, Jordan, Morocco, Turkey and the U.K.

For reasons such as these, women have fled their homelands seeking refugee status in a new country, sometimes with little success. Sometimes pursued by family members and murdered in their new locations.