Psychological barriers to fair refugee status determination related to our understanding and expression of gender

This chapter outlines & discusses some of the barriers to credibility assessment due to gender, including a consideration of the disclosure of difficult experiences.

Herlihy, J. (2014). In E. Arbel, C. Dauvergne & J. Millbank (Eds.), Gender in Refugee Law: From the margins to the centre (pp. 116-137). Abingdon: Routledge.

This is a chapter in a book edited by Erfat Arbel, Catherine Dauvergne & Jenni Millbank entitled Gender in Refugee Law: From the Margins to the Centre.

The chapter begins from the assumption that gender is a social construction and not to be equated with biological sex. I first consider the role and importance of shame in maintaining social distinctions between genders, distinguishing shame from other related, but distinct, emotions of guilt and humiliation both of which are common in people seeking asylum, particularly after torture. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) has a close relationship with shame, dissociation, and difficulties in disclosing distressing personal experiences to others – a task which lies at the heart of every individual claim for international protection. Non-disclosure in the asylum system has not received very much research interest from psychologists, but it has been studied widely in the context of therapy, and I look at this literature for lessons for the asylum system, before turning to the particular difficulties faced by men disclosing sexual violence. I deal briefly with asylum claims based on sexuality, although again the psychological literature in this area of asylum seeking is sparse. Finally, I raise the question of whether there are ways in which the gender of the decision-maker can be a factor in the outcomes of individual claims for international protection.

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