Posted by: Habladora | October 2, 2008

Gender Asylum Threatened

Rodi Alvarado Peña fled to the United States from her home country of Guatemala seeking asylum after having endured ten years of domestic violence and multiple refusals of protection by both the police and the justice system in her own country. Staying in Guatemala would have meant risking death:

Despite her repeated attempts to obtain government protection, the police and the courts refused to intervene. When she ran away, her husband found her and beat her unconscious. Desperate to save her life, Ms. Alvarado finally fled to the United States…

Fleeing to another country, a country where she would be protected from the violence of her husband, was Rodi Alvarado Peña’s only chance for survival.

Now the United States is in the process of deciding if she will be deported, and her case will impact the fates of other women who have come here seeking asylum from trafficking, honor killings, sexual assault, and violence. According to the New York Times, Attorney General Michael Mukasey has canceled a stay in Rodi Alvarado Peña’s case:

Mr. Mukasey sent back the case of the woman, Rodi Alvarado Peña, to the Board of Immigration Appeals, encouraging it to set nationwide standards for determining when women who are victims of domestic violence in their home countries can win asylum. The case, held up since January 2001, caused many other asylum claims of battering victims to stall. A lawyer for Mrs. Alvarado, Karen Musalo, said Mr. Mukasey’s decision raised concerns because the appeals board denied asylum to Mrs. Alvarado in 1999.

When Rodi Alvarado Peña was first granted asylum and then had it revoked by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) in 1999, the decision to deport her “led to denials of asylum protection to women fleeing a broad range of serious human rights violations, including trafficking for prostitution, gang rape and honor killing, as well as domestic violence.” Janet Reno, who was attorney general at the time, responded to outrage at the BIA’s ruling by overturning its decision and ordering that the BIA “… issue a new decision in Rodi’s case after the issuance of proposed Department of Justice regulations on the subject of gender asylum (read the regulations). Those regulations have never been finalized by the Bush Administration.”

This case will set precedents about which women will be protected by the United States and which will be turned away, precedents that will speak volumes about who we are as a nation.

(Crossposted from The Feminist Underground)



  1. Gosh, this is horrific to read about. It really does speak volumes about who we truly are as a nation. This is a perfect example of the patriarchy at play to not help woman at all, anywhere.

    I linked this story to my blog by the way!

  2. It would really be great if women didn’t have to get asylum from their own husbands in the United States. However, there is not a lot that we can do, besides invading them or something, so in the meantime, I hope that they make the right decision and allow her to stay. It’s just as deadly for her to go back as it would be for a political prisoner.

  3. Well, the US doesn’t particularly protect women from domestic violence, gang rapes, etc., either…

  4. […] Asylum for women fleeing domestic violence is in jeopardy. […]

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