Hastings Women’s Law Journal


Bret Thiele


Reacting to the horrors committed during World War II and the subsequent mass migration of individuals across State boundaries, the international community in 1951 agreed to a definition of refugee. This definition is still in use internationally and reflected in U.S. domestic law. This article illustrates how the current definition of refugee is limited and therefore inadequate to protect millions of persons, namely those persecuted or facing persecution on account of gender. Likewise, recent developments in refugee law do not sufficiently provide protection to individuals facing gender-specific forms of persecution. This article argues for the addition of a gender category to the U.S., and ultimately the international, definition of refugee. While adding a gender category to the existing definition would not in itself be specific to either men or women, it would be particularly helpful in ensuring that women fleeing persecution on account of their gender are entitled to legal recognition and protection as refugees.