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The James R. Browning Building of the U.S. Court of Appeals, home of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in San Francisco. File image.
The James R. Browning Building of the U.S. Court of Appeals, home of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in San Francisco. Photo: File image.

The case of a Mexican woman beaten for her feminist ideas who was granted asylum

According to an appellate court, a woman victim of violence because of her feminist views can apply for asylum status in the United States.

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The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco has ruled that Maria Rodriguez-Tornes can legally remain in the United States after fleeing Mexico.

She was raped and beaten by her husband and his partner in Mexico for freely expressing her opinions, saying that she has the right to be treated equally and to have a job could have cost her her life.  

This persecution in her home country now allows her to seek asylum in the United States, a federal appeals court ruled on April 5.

"Those men mistreated her because she expressly asserted to them her political opinion that she was their equal," read the ruling.

Rodriguez-Tornes was raised to be a victim, the court said. From the age of five, her mother told her to obey her future husband's orders and accept spousal abuse, in addition to beating her almost daily to prepare her for the future.

Maria was a school teacher, but when she married Esteban Baron Mata, he forbade her to work and burned her face with a cigarette when she refused to stop teaching.
In addition to continually threatening her to obey orders, he beat her regularly, according to the court. 

Like many victims of domestic and gender-based violence, Maria decided not to go to the police after a friend tried to report her own abuse and officers told her to go home and fulfill her duties.

Pregnant, Maria fled to the United States in 1993, settling in Arizona, where she met her next partner, who responded to her claims of equality by beating, raping and strangling her, the court confirms. Both she and her assailant were deported in 2017, but still under threats from her partner, Rodriguez-Tornes returned to the United States, where authorities initiated new deportation proceedings.

Immigration Judge Susan P. Graber considered Rodriguez's history and granted her asylum.

She has also granted him withholding of deportation and protection under the Convention Against Torture. Graber ruled that Rodriguez's feminist political views were at least one of the primary reasons for her past persecution and her well-founded fear of future persecution by her former partners. The judge further found that the Mexican government acquiesced in the torture of Rodriguez Tornes, meaning that the government would not work to stop possible future persecution by domestic abusers.

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