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The Masks of the Political God by Luca Ozzano

Gender Mainstreaming in the EU Asylum System: Strengths and Pitfalls of the Concept of Vulnerability

European Union
Human Rights
Marie Walter
Freie Universität Berlin
Marie Walter
Freie Universität Berlin

Historically, gender does not play any significant role in the figure of the refugee as defined in the 1951 Geneva Convention (Edwards, 2010). Along with the mainstreaming of feminism in the international community and the progressive establishment of women's rights in all sectors of international law, including refugee law and EU law, national refugee policies have transformed considerably. In particular, gender-specific types and actors of persecution are now solidly recognized under European Human Rights law and EU law. Similarly, persecution on the basis of sexual orientation and identity have equally been widely acknowledged as grounds for protection. EU member states have thus introduced dedicated policies to address gender-specific issues. In the process of extension of the refugee protection regime to victims of gender or sexual identity-related persecution, the concept of vulnerability has played a key role. While vulnerability provides the protection-giver with a well-structured, human rights-inspired procedural mechanism to grant asylum, it also has problematic exclusionary effects. Persons are thus separated out into special groups based on one aspect of their identity or biography, out-shadowing all others, based on convenience or established practice of the institutions. From a feminist perspective, the construction of the vulnerable object of protection is therefore highly questionable. Based on a review of the successive waves of legislation establishing and reforming the Common European Asylum System, this paper will scrutinize critically how the gender gap in refugee law was addressed by waving vulnerability into the EU asylum framework.
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