Transitioning Gender: Feminist Engagement with International Refugee Law and Policy 1950–2010


Edwards, Alice. 2010. “Transitioning Gender: Feminist Engagement with International Refugee Law and Policy 1950-2010.” Refugee Survey Quarterly 29 (2): 21–45. 

Author: Alice Edwards


This article traces the history of feminist engagement with international refugee law and policy through five periods from 1950 to the present. While gender is not explicit in the 1951 Geneva Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, it has developed as a useful lens through which one can construct arguments for protection and rights. Nonetheless, the emphasis on gender in women's asylum claims and in policies and programmes on humanitarian assistance often minimizes the political, racial, and religious causes of persecution that affect women and the agency of women in making decisions based on these causes. The conflation of women-children-sexual violence-vulnerability has further led to instrumental yet unhelpful assumptions being made about refugee women. Efforts to bring women onto an equal footing with men through “gender mainstreaming” and “age, gender and diversity mainstreaming” though have not been without problems. In particular, the potential ousting of an emphasis on equality to a more generic focus on gender must be cautioned against. While recognizing the substantial progress made to date, the article argues for more and continuous engagement with feminism as a powerful methodology and political strategy as more work remains to achieve equality for refugee women.

Keywords: International Refugee Law, female refugees, asylum, 'feminism'

Topics: Displacement & Migration, Refugees, Feminisms, Gender, Women, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Equality/Inequality, Humanitarian Assistance, International Law

Year: 2010

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