Membership in a Particular Social Group: All Approaches Open Doors for Women to Qualify

For decades, U.S. refugee law has restricted women’s access to protection. To qualify as a refugee, a person must have a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group (PSG), or political opinion. Because women often suffer persecution that is not clearly on account of the four other enumerated grounds, the only ground that offers hope is PSG. However, the ambiguity of the term PSG, as well as the various approaches taken by courts to analyze whether women should constitute a PSG, have led to inconsistent outcomes. This Note argues that women should qualify as a PSG. It advocates for the adoption of a “bifurcated nexus approach,” which will allow women persecuted by state and non-state actors to claim asylum if their state denies protection “on account” of their gender. Further, it argues that case law can be harmonized to include women as a PSG.