Source description last updated: 28 October 2020.

In brief: The Center for Gender & Refugee Studies (CGRS) is an institution part of the University of California Hastings College of the Law and, formed in 1999, engages in protection of and legal advocacy for refugee women, children and LGBT individuals, as well as other persons persecuted in their countries of origin.

Coverage on

Selected country reports.

Covered quarterly on, for countries of priorities A-C.


“The Center for Gender & Refugee Studies protects the fundamental human rights of refugee women, children, LGBT individuals, and others who flee persecution in their home countries. We provide legal expertise, training, research and publications, engage in appellate litigation and policy development, and use international human rights instruments to address the root causes of persecution and to advance human rights. (CGRS website: About, undated)

“CGRS serves women, children, LGBT, and other refugees fleeing gender-based violence and other harms. These forms of persecution include forced marriage, female genital cutting, human trafficking, forced prostitution, honor killing, domestic violence, child abuse, incest, and rape. An estimated one in three women will be physically and/or sexually abused in her lifetime, a rate that is even higher in certain regions of the world.  Like women, children and LGBT individuals are also subject to high rates of violence: an estimated 25-50% of the world’s children have reported being physically abused, and 78 countries worldwide have legislation criminalizing same sex acts.  Tragically, gender-based persecution is often committed with impunity in refugee-producing countries, yet is not adequately recognized as a basis for asylum by the governments of many refugee-receiving countries.  Claims for asylum protection by children and LGBT individuals also face particular challenges.

CGRS envisions a world where no one is subject to persecution because of their gender, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, or membership in a family or other social group. We push the United States and other refugee-receiving countries to recognize gender-based persecution and to grant asylum to its survivors. At the same time, we work with our international partners to end the epidemic of gender-based violence that forces these individuals to fear for their lives to such an extent that they flee their homes, often leaving everything familiar to them behind.” (CGRS website: Who do we serve?, undated)

“CGRS helps improve the quality of legal representation available to asylum seekers by providing free expert consultation, litigation resources, and training to attorneys and organizations in California, the United States, and abroad, thus ensuring the best possible outcomes for individual asylum seekers.” (CGRS website: Technical Assistance & Training, undated)

“CGRS tracks and monitors asylum, withholding of removal, and Convention against Torture claims from individuals at all levels of U.S. immigration adjudication.” (CGRS website: Tracking & Decision Analysis, undated)

“Defending asylum seekers in court is at the heart of what we do. The Center for Gender & Refugee Studies is committed to protecting as many refugees as possible under existing law even as we work for a more just legal system. We litigate in two key areas: advancing substantive asylum law to keep legal avenues open for refugees and protecting the asylum system itself to make sure that people have access to a fair legal process.” (CGRS website: Litigation, undated)

“The Center for Gender and Refugee Studies - California (CGRS-California) is the California-focused arm of the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies (CGRS) based at the University of California Hastings College of the Law. Facing increasing demand for CGRS’s services from the growing refugee and immigrant populations of California and their representatives, CGRS made the decision to incorporate CGRS-California in 2014 to expand and strengthen our ability to provide legal technical assistance, training, and litigation resources for attorneys throughout the state. The newly established 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization works closely with, and continues to be affiliated with CGRS, bringing into focus the same vision for a world where no one is subject to persecution because of gender, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, or membership in a family or other social group.” (CGRS website: CGRS - California, undated)


Private donations. “The Center for Gender & Refugee Studies receives contributions through the UC Hastings Foundation.” (CGRS website: Support CGRS, undated)

Scope of reporting:

Geographic focus: Countries of origin of asylum seekers.

Thematic focus: Gender-related asylum.


A report on justice for women in Guatemala "draws primarily upon the findings of CGRS’s most recent trip to [the country], in which it met with advocates from nongovernmental organizations, government officials, members   of   the   judiciary, and   international agency representatives; CGRS monitored the ongoing situation through reports, the media, and continued discussions with advocates and scholars." (Ruiz, Héctor: No Justice for Guatemalan Women: An Update 20 Years After Guatemala’s First Violence Against Women Law, Hastings Women's Journal 101, p. 104, 2018)

CGRS’ report on sexual exploitation of displaced women in Haiti “draws on the analysis of both primary and secondary sources. Primary sources consisted of interviews conducted with individuals with direct experience or knowledge of survival sex in Haiti, as well as interviews or focus groups with service providers, government officials, and experts concerned with the issue. Researchers also visited camps and neighborhoods where survival sex is reportedly occurring. Secondary sources included Haitian law, international human rights law, and international criminal law, as well as studies and reports published by humanitarian agencies, social science scholars, and human rights organizations relevant to the issue." (CGRS: Struggling to Survive: Sexual Exploitation of Displace Women and Girls in Port au Prince, Haiti, Methodology, p. 5, 2012)

“CGRS collaborates with human rights organizations in the United States and abroad to address gender-based violence and other human rights violations. Through in-depth fact finding, we seek to address the root causes of persecution that force women, children, and LGBTQ refugees to flee their homes. Our fact-finding work, in partnership with the UC Hastings Refugee and Human Rights Clinic, has focused on Central America, Haiti, and Central Asia.” (CGRS website: International Refugee and Human Rights Work, undated)

“CGRS has long partnered with medical and mental health professionals whose expertise is crucial to documenting trauma and other lasting effects of persecution experienced by asylum seekers. We also train medical and mental health professionals on asylum law and processes to increase their capacity to serve as experts in asylum cases.” (CGRS website: Legal-Medical Partnerships, undated)

Language(s) of publications:

English, Spanish.

Further reading:

“CGRS recently launched [a] new expert witness database. This database offers advocates a searchable repository of qualified and pre-vetted country specialists and health professionals who serve as expert witnesses to support asylum seekers in the United States. The database also provides a mechanism for advocates to contact experts directly. It is available free of charge to all advocates dedicated to promoting the rights of immigrants and asylum seekers.” (CGRS website: Technical Assistance & Training, undated)

CGRS Expert Witness Database

All links accessed 28 October 2020.

Cite as:
ACCORD - Austrian Centre for Country of Origin & Asylum Research and Documentation: source description: Center for Gender & Refugee Studies, UC Hastings (CGRS), 28 October 2020