Reason to disbelieve: Evaluating the rape claims of women seeking asylum in the UK

Helen Baillot, Sharon Cowan, Vanessa E. Munro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Asylum applicants in the UK must show, to a ‘reasonable degree of likelihood’, a well-founded fear of persecution, on the basis of race, religion, political opinion or membership of a particular social group, in the event of return ‘home’. This requirement presents myriad challenges both to claimants and decision-makers. Based on findings from a three-year national study, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, this paper explores those challenges as they relate to women seeking asylum in the UK whose applications include an allegation of rape. The study explored the extent to which difficulties relating to disclosure and credibility, which are well documented in the context of women's sexual assault allegations in the criminal justice system, might be replicated and compounded for female asylum-seekers whose applications include a claim of rape. Findings suggest that the structural and practical obstacles faced in establishing credibility, and the existence of scepticism about rape claims and asylum-seeking more generally, mean that decision-making can often be experienced as arbitrary, unjust, uninformed or contradictory, making it difficult for women asylum applicants who allege rape to find refuge in the UK.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)105-139
JournalInternational Journal of Law in Context
Issue number1
Early online date31 Jan 2014
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2014


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