Mariela Cabrera Ponce suffered years of physical violence...
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Groundbreaking Gender Claim Filed

Mariela Cabrera Ponce suffered years of physical and psychological violence at the hands of her ex-husband. As in numerous other cases, the Colombian government failed to protect her, leaving her little choice but to flee.

Once in Ecuador, she applied for asylum but was denied protection, in a decision fraught with gender bias and legal error.

Asylum Access Ecuador and Loyola Law School this week petitioned a United Nations human rights body to protect women like Mariela by recognizing domestic violence as grounds for refugee status.

In bringing Mariela’s case before the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), Asylum Access Ecuador and Loyola Law School contend that Ecuador has failed to uphold its obligations under the CEDAW Convention to protect against and eradicate gender discrimination and gender bias in the context of asylum proceedings.

Additionally, Ecuador is urged to establish gender-sensitive procedures and training on gender-based violence and gender-based persecution, which, in many cases, would provide valid grounds to claim refugee status.


Karina Sarmiento
Regional Director, Asylum Access Latin America
(+53) 2.2.545.914
Jessica Therkelsen
Global Policy Director, Asylum Access
(+1) 510.899.8700

Emily Arnold-Fernandez
Executive Director, Asylum Access
(+1) 415.601.3896  

Read a recent article by VICE News on Mariela Cabrera Ponce's story.

"Globally, women’s claims to refugee status based on domestic violence, or other forms of gendered violence, are often rejected based on an erroneous interpretation of the Refugee Convention. Colombian women seeking recognition of their refugee status by Ecuadorian authorities, like female asylum seekers in many countries, frequently see their applications rejected due to deep-rooted gender discrimination and a fundamental misunderstanding of the proper application of the Refugee Convention."

Karen Musalo
Director, Center for Gender and Refugee Studies

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Press Release (190kb)
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