16 Days Against Violence Against Women: Day 2
Press Statement from Black Women’s Rape Action Project
On 25 November 2008, International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, we demand that the UK government meet its international obligations to provide protection to women seeking asylum from rape and other sexual torture.
In June 2006, Black Women’s Rape Action Project issued the “Asylum from Rape” petition demanding official recognition of rape as torture and persecution, and practical help for women to overcome the many obstacles they face in making their asylum claims. Thousands of people have already signed the petition including journalists Victoria Brittain and Caroline Moorhead, lawyer Gareth Peirce, actress Juliet Stevenson and poet Benjamin Zephaniah.
An estimated 50% of women seeking asylum in the UK are rape survivors. Women are spearheading the movement for asylum rights and exposing the hidden atrocities in the asylum process. This self-help activity has encouraged opposition from many quarters, including high level protests against the detention of children and vulnerable people. The “Asylum from Rape” petition is one way of informing people about who seeks asylum and why, and is a tool to demand change.
We are calling on all concerned UK and international organisations to endorse the “Asylum from Rape” petition.
o Whilst International courts recognize that rape is routinely used as a weapon of war and also as an act of genocide  , asylum claims by women seeking asylum from rape are routinely dismissed by the Home Office and the courts, flouting government guidelines, UK case law and international conventions  .
o Whilst the conviction rape for reported rape in the UK is an appalling 6%, racism and official contempt for those who are from other countries and vulnerable compounds the sexism all women are up against.
o Many women are accused of “fabricating” their account of rape. In other cases, sexual violence is dismissed as “simple lust” or “random acts” by “unruly officers”, or women are told it is safe to live somewhere else in the country they fled.
o Many mothers are also suffering the unspeakable violence of being separated from their children who they were forced to leave behind when they fled to the UK. See their campaign here.
o Contrary to the government’s own rules against the detention of victims of torture, over 70% of women in Yarl’s Wood Removal Centre are rape survivors . Some are imprisoned as soon as they claim asylum. The petition calls for an end to this “Detained Fast Track” procedure.
o Many are being sent back to further torture because they weren’t able to put before the UK authorities the full evidence of the rape and violence they suffered or were arbitrarily dismissed when they did. Most of the few women who have been able to stay in touch with BWRAP and Women Against Rape, report being raped or tortured again. Many are destitute and some have been forced into prostitution to survive.
o Whilst only 7% of racist attacks in the UK result in a conviction, many women asylum seekers report increased racial violence, fuelled by government and media witch-hunts against so-called “bogus asylum seekers”
o On this fifteenth anniversary of the creation of the post of UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, we urge the current Rapporteur Yakin ErtÃ¼rk to intervene against UK government’s policies which deliberately make women asylum seekers destitute and force women back to countries where they may face rape, other violence and even death.
Women in all of the above situations are available for interview. For more information, including how you can help, contact BWRAP@dircon.co.uk or call 020 7482 2496
1. In the coming weeks, three judges of the International Criminal Court in The Hague will decide whether Sudan’s president will stand accused of masterminding the use of rape as a form of genocide against several ethnic groups in Darfur. [David Scheffer, “Rape as genocide in Darfur”, Los Angeles Times 13 November 2008]
2. “Misjudging Rape – Breaching Gender Guidelines & International law in Asylum Appeals”, BWRAP & WAR, December 2006].
3. Legal Action for Women’s research into women’s rights violations at Yarl’s Wood Removal Centre. [A “Bleak House” for Our Times, December 2005]