Mikhail Sorochishin

Issues of protection of refugees and asylum seekers were always in the focus of the international community. Persons deprived of the protection of their countries are in the most vulnerable position and demand special protection from both the international community and countries of asylum.

Domestic and gender-based violence is one of the many challenges that refugees and asylum seekers have to face. This category of people is particularly vulnerable to mentioned above types of violence. Stressful experiences of leaving the country of origin coupled with cultural and religious differences make refugees particularly vulnerable to domestic and gender-based violence. This plight is complicated by ignorance of legal means for the protection. Concealed character of domestic and gender-based violence makes it extremely difficult to prevent or to stop.

The issue of protection of the rights of refugees and asylum seekers from domestic and gender-based violence is given considerable attention at international level. The UNHCR has developed strategies and training programs to prevent sexual-based and gender-based violence.

An important international legal instrument in this field is the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence of 2011 (the Istanbul Convention). The Convention establishes a number of obligations for the Parties in the sphere of protection of refugees and asylum seekers from domestic and gender-based violence. Article 60 of the Convention confers on the Parties an obligation to take the necessary legislative or other measures to ensure that gender-based violence against women may be recognized as a form of persecution within the meaning of Article 1, A (2), of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and as a form of serious harm giving rise to complementary/subsidiary protection. Article 60 of the Istanbul convention also prescribes that the Parties shall take the necessary legislative or other measures to develop gender-sensitive reception procedures and support services for asylum-seekers as well as gender guidelines and gender-sensitive asylum procedures, including refugee status determination and application for international protection. In addition, Article 61 of the Istanbul Convention sets an important guarantee of non-refoulement of the victims of domestic and gender-based violence.

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