Gender-Based Violence: Not Political Enough?

SomaliWomanA good friend sent me the link to a story in the Washington Post entitled Time to End an Asylum Limbo for Abused Women, and it’s pretty disturbing on a couple of levels. First of course, are the facts of the case:

Rody Alvarado Peña, a victim of brutal domestic violence in her native Guatemala, sought refuge in the United States in 1995. An immigration court judge granted her asylum the next year, but almost 14 years later Rody remains in limbo. She is working in a convent in California and hoping that the Obama administration will finally resolve her case and take steps to protect women who flee their countries to escape certain death from gender-based violence.

For almost 14 years, various agencies and officials have tossed around the case of Alvarado Peña, never able to finalize regulations that would enable her to have some semblance of peace in her life. And why is this happening? Because in our world of “the war on terror,” the concept of political asylum becomes murky when women are the ones being victimized.  Again from the story:

Nobody disputes the facts of this case. At age 16, Alvarado Peña married a career soldier. He raped and beat her with abandon, breaking mirrors over her head, causing a miscarriage by kicking her until she hemorrhaged and viciously beating her until she lost consciousness. With divorce impossible without her husband’s consent, and no shelters or supports available, Alvarado Peña fled to the United States.

In my mind, gender-based persecution clearly falls under the umbrella of political persecution, but it’s apparently not so clear under the law. So Alvarado Peña’s case has been handed back and forth since the Clinton Administration, with the Bush years a notable abyss of responisiblity and action. Creating yet another layer of bureaucracy with the establishment of the Dept. of Homeland Security did nothing to clear up cases such as Alvarado Peña’s.

The authors of this story note that:

Sadly, cases like this aren’t going away. Violence against women and girls is a global crisis. In the past year, rape has been used as a weapon of war in Zimbabwe, grandmothers have been hacked to pieces in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and a 13-year-old rape victim was stoned to death in Somalia. Every day, there are “honor” killings, acid attacks, bride burnings, and horrific domestic and sexual violence worldwide.

And here’s where the second disturbing facet of this story comes in: the comments written at the Washington Post web site. After reading the paragraph above, I cannot believe that someone actually wrote this:

All due sympathy and all that, but the U.S. here is not set up to give sanctuary to all who have troubled marriages. We cannot prove what goes on behind the bedroom door.

Or how about this one:

It is not the job of the US to take in women with marital problems. This will turn into another immigration scam as women fly in from all over the world to claim asylum for domestic abuse.

Because you know, women use that old scam of “domestic abuse” all the the time.  {sigh}

I hope you will join me and leave a comment over there (yes, you will have to sign in, sorry).  Please prove to me that America is not the hypocritical animal I think it has become:  Sending off our young soldiers to fight (and die) for “the land of the free and the brave” while simultaneously slamming the door shut in the face of the oppressed and abused.



  1. It is just beyond ridiculous that this woman’s case has not been settled yet. And of course there are ignorant asses who have to state the stupidest things about women and abuse because, after all, women are just liars in their book and deserve whatever they get.

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