Critiquing Matter of A-B-: An Uncertain Future in Asylum Proceedings for Women Fleeing Intimate Partner Violence

The #MeToo movement has brought renewed attention to the impact of gender inequality on our society’s ability to provide protection to women from physical and sexual violence, including intimate partner violence. Despite advances in legal protections and increased resources to prevent, prosecute, and bring an end to intimate partner violence, in the absence of true efforts to combat gender inequality as a whole, intimate partner violence will continue to pervade our society. The discussion of gender inequality’s impact on the treatment of intimate partner violence must expand beyond the violence that occurs in the United States to gender inequality’s impact on the protection afforded to women who have suffered this violence in other countries and seek protection from the United States. This is because U.S. asylum law trails decades behind even our flawed federal and state protections for victims of intimate partner violence. The male-centric lens through which the refugee definition was drafted and is interpreted continues to inhibit any progress in recognizing women’s asylum claims involving intimate partner violence.

This Article finds that Matter of A-B- returns to the perception that intimate partner violence is a personal matter outside the scope of asylum protections. The decision demonstrates continued ignorance regarding the underlying reasons for intimate partner violence against women—gender and subordination. The failure to recognize that intimate partner violence occurs because of a woman’s gender is one of the primary obstacles to improvements in the treatment of asylum claims involving intimate partner violence. This Article contrasts the lack of progress in U.S. asylum law to provide protection to women who suffer intimate partner violence outside the United States with the advancements made in federal and state efforts to combat intimate partner violence occurring inside the United States. As a remedy, this Article recommends new legislation and regulations recognizing and guiding adjudication of these asylum claims, combined with judicial training and the development of a tracking mechanism for determinations in these types of cases. The current commitment to eradicating gender inequality within the United States is the perfect moment for reforming how we treat gender inequality when it occurs outside the United States.