Seeking asylum from sex persecution : challenging refugee policy and policy-making of Canada in the late twentieth century
Canada's 1993 refugee policy Guidelines for Women Refugees Fearing Gender-Related Persecution reinterpret the 1951 UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees to radically expand state-responsibilities for women's human rights. The evolution of this novel inter-state responsibility departed from established models of policy-making in some important respects. This study explores how asylum seekers challenged Canada to align domestic policies on violence against women with humanitarian responsibilities in refugee policy, shaping their own eligibility criteria and rights to state protection. These stateless persons and foreign nationals drew upon both human rights and Canadian citizenship rights in order to make claims upon the state and influence policy. Their influence has implications not only for women's rights to inter-state protection, but for non-citizen participation in policy-making. The participation of non-citizens in policy-making has been neglected in academic social policy. Here their role in policy-advocacy networks is explored through an analytic framework that draws on migration system theory and collective action theories. This illuminates the inter-state structural context, interactions between grassroots actors and government, and the interplay of national and supranational identity and rights issues. The study then identifies the structural context and key political opportunities that opened up for women seeking asylum and challenging refugee policy. Case studies are analysed to describe how emerging opportunities were used by the particular asylum seekers and their core network of supporters between 1991 and 1997, and to what effect. Insight is provided into: how refugee policy-making involves asylum seekers whose roles are expanding in complicated and dynamic relationships with receiving-states; why a new international migration flow based on age-old structural persecution emerged in the late twentieth century and who these asylum seekers really are; the ways they influenced policy; and the extent and implications of their influence, for policy and policy-making. The thesis suggests that academic social policy may need to rethink nationally bound policy and policy-change frameworks and their traditional basis in citizenship, which globalisation is calling into question. It suggests that citizenship and human rights discourses and state-responsibilities are merging through the influence of stateless persons and foreign- nationals who make expressly political use of new policy advocacy opportunities, both institutional and extra-institutional, and through transnational identity and rights issues of which feminism is a strong example. It indicates that Canada's policy guidelines are not the end of the road - refugee policy needs to move in a direction that recognises both 'gender- related' and 'sex' persecution at the heart of asylum seekers' claims.