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Women Fleeing Beatings From Their Husbands Could Get Asylum Here

Rody Alvarado Peña, now 40, was 16 when she got married in her home country of Guatemala. Her husband severely beat her for more than 10 years—pistol-whipping her, using her head to smash windows, chasing her with a machete, dragging her down the street by her hair, and kicking her repeatedly in the stomach in hopes of aborting their baby. In 1995, Rody ran away to the United States and sought asylum. See, generally, asylum here is only granted to people who are part of social group that is persecuted—abused women traditionally do not count. But lawyers in Rody’s case argued that they should, because women in Guatemala are persecuted in a targeted way—more than 4,000 women in the country have been beaten to death by their husbands in the past decade, and only 2% of the cases were ever solved. Still, Roday has spent the past 14 years in constant court cases and hearings, trying to get asylum officially granted. While lawyers and immigration officials debated her case, she has been able to stay in the United States—she lives in California and works as a housekeeper at a home for elderly nuns—but she never knew if she’d have to pack up and leave. Finally, the Obama administration has taken the bull by the horns and recommended that Rody be granted asylum. Which is awesome. But of course, this case has much larger implications than Rody continuing her life here. This sets a precedent that battered women are a persecuted group and qualify for asylum. This could be big news for women horribly abused in other countries where domestic violence is part of the culture. [NY Times]

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