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US Door Opens Wider on Asylum for Battered Women

July 30, 2009

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - The Obama administration has reversed a Bush-era position on battered women seeking asylum in the United States, opening an easier way for victims worldwide to seek shelter. A recent court case shows the Obama administration is reversing Bush-era positions that made it nearly impossible for abused women to gain asylum.

The move is being hailed by Mary Anne Metheny, executive director of Hope House Shelter, as a "great humanitarian effort."

"No matter where you are, domestic violence is wrong. Whether you're here or in another country, it's not okay."

Undoubtedly, Metheny says, some people fear there will be waves of women seeking asylum on flimsy grounds. But she points out that under the government's new stance the women still must meet strict guidelines.

Abused women seeking asylum in the United States need to show that they are treated as if they are property, that domestic abuse is widely tolerated in their country of origin, and that they could not find protection there from institutions or by moving within that country.

Metheny says this country can offer women resources so they can move on.

"This will have a large impact on the people we're serving. Not just people who are already here, but also people coming here specifically to escape abuse."

The government's policy change became apparent in a U.S. Department of Justice filing in an asylum case in San Francisco.

More information on the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence can be found at www.fcadv.org.

Gina Presson , Public News Service - FL