chapter  10
23 Pages

Women fleeing armed conflict: seeking international protection in the United Kingdom


Although the number of armed conflicts in the world has decreased since the beginning of the 1990s, 80-90 per cent of casualties are now civilians and the majority of armed conflicts today are internal (Nilsson 2011, 4-5). Armed conflicts are characterized by mass violations of human rights, including unlawful killings, torture, and forced displacement. Armed conflicts also have a differential impact on women as women may be specifically targeted and may be at increased risk of sexual violence and other gendered human rights violations because of their place and status in society. The United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (Refugee Convention) adopted in 1951 and the development of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) mandate have sought to provide protection to persons fleeing conflict and civil wars (Goodwin-Gill and McAdam 2007, 20-37). The refugee definition adopted in the Refugee Convention requires refugee claimants to show a wellfounded fear of persecution demonstrative of a failure of state protection that is linked to one of five recognized grounds of persecution (Refugee Convention Art. 1A(2)). This definition is applied in a case-by-case individual assessment of entitlement to refugee status by national decisionmaking authorities. This chapter considers how the interpretation of the Refugee Convention in United Kingdom jurisprudence has adapted to the changing nature of armed conflict generally. It also looks at whether the differential impact of armed conflict on women has permeated into asylum decision-making, and, if so, to what extent a gender perspective has been integrated into jurisprudence relating to women seeking asylum from armed conflict.1