Gender Persecution Cases

Razack presents her thesis as “how gender persecution, as it is deployed in refugee discourse, can function as a deeply racialized concept in that it requires that Third World women speak of their realities of sexual violence outside of, and at the expense of, their realities as colonized peoples… therefore further[ing] First World interests by obscuring Western hegemony and its destructive impact on the Third World.”

Razack makes a broad assumption in this essay that women refugees want to be saved, and that nations want to or should be their saviors. I believe that women could very well just want asylum. How does this differ? I think it is in that refugee status gives women specific rights assigned by the nation, whereas asylum is just “protection or safety from danger or imminent harm provided by a sheltered place”, in other words, just a place to call home away from the home to which you cannot return.

In as much as Razack assumes that nations have a moral obligation to rescue or to be a savior for women escaping circumstances of persecution, she assumes that governments care about women and their circumstances above and beyond that of men. I believe that this is a false assumption that may lend itself to why women have such a hard time attaining refugee status.

Third Razack assumes that it is best that we move away from assisting women based on pity and instead act on our responsibility. She acknowledges the difficulty with this argument / assumption in as much as many would argue that this would just be opening the floodgates for too many to come into the country under the protection of refugee status.

I believe that if countries were to separate providing additional benefits (through refugee status) to women from the act of asylum by permitting residence in the country then perhaps more women would be found safe. This thought was not explored at all in the essay, instead Razack just explored how to better work within the system.

I appreciated how she acknowledged that the system is broken and that we must work with the master’s tools as given in that “women’s claims are most likely to succeed when they present themselves as victims of dysfunctional, exceptionally patriarchal cultures and states. The successful asylum seeker must cast herself as a cultural Other, that is, as someone fleeing from a more primitive culture.” As discussed in class, this form of storytelling plays on the sympathies of men and triggers their aggressive ego in which they can assert their superiority above others by rejecting the men of the culture from which the woman is fleeing. In granting asylum they are able to cast their eyes down upon the Third World country and its ‘primitive’ men.

I believe until the governments are truly looking at solving the problem, which involves looking at the root of the issue in these women’s homelands, and what it is that we do to play a part in perpetuating their persecution we will not see a true respite from this violence upon women. In an effort not to ‘poo poo’ on viewpoint without providing a better solution, I’d say imagine a world where immigration is not granted to men from countries where women are mistreated as a whole. Or a step further, what if we were to stop trade with these countries? What if we only supported the economic pursuits of women in those countries, thereby increasing women’s power in the power relations? Can we provide an answer so women do not have to flee from their homes?

Razack, S. (1995). Domestic Violence as Gender Persecution: Policing the Borders of Nation, Race, and. Canadian Journal of Women and the Law.


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