Citation: 2020 RLLR 117
Tribunal: Refugee Protection Division
Date of Decision: November 27, 2020
Panel: Megan Kammerer
Counsel for the Claimant(s): N/A
RPD Number: VB9-05568
Associated RPD Number(s):
ATIP Number: A-2021-00945
ATIP Pages: 000213-000227
REASONS FOR DECISION
 This is the decision of the Refugee Protection Division (RPD) in the claim of [XXX] as a citizen of Pakistan who is claiming refugee protection pursuant to section 96 and subsection 97(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (the “Act“).
 In hearing and assessing this claim, I have considered and applied the Chairperson’s Guideline on Women Refugee Claimants Fearing Gender-Related Persecution, which offers guidance in recognizing women as members of a particular social group and also with respect to other gender specific issues present in this claim.
 The claimant is a former permanent resident of Canada who alleges that she has been emotionally and physically abused by her ex-husband in Pakistan. She states that this abuse began in 2014, was related to the claimant’s failure to sponsor her ex-husband to come to Canada, and continued until the claimant left Pakistan in 2016.
 I find that the principal claimant has a well-founded fear of persecution on the basis of her gender and is therefore a Convention refugee under section 96 of the Act.
 I find that the claimant’s identity as a national of Pakistan has been established through her testimony and the supporting documentation filed, including her passport.
 When a claimant swears to the truth of their allegations, this creates a presumption that those allegations are true, unless there is a reason to doubt their truthfulness. In this case, there were some significant concerns with credibility. During testimony, the claimant made some inconsistent statements with respect to the abuse that occurred in Pakistan and was unable to adequately explain her delay in submitting her refugee claim. However, I do not find that these problems are significant enough to overcome the presumption of truthfulness.
Statements regarding the abuse
 The claimant testified that she decided to leave her abusive ex-husband in 2016 and fled from Pakistan to Sri Lanka so that she could obtain travel documents from the Canadian High Commission for herself and her children. During an interview at the High Commission in Sri Lanka on [XXX] 2016, the claimant was asked about whether her ex-husband had hurt her “in any way” and whether he had abused her physically or verbally. The claimant replied that her ex-husband had hurt her verbally but not physically. When asked whether she was still in a relationship with him, the claimant replied that her ex-husband “is just not listening to me right now that we would be better off in Canada. His family does not like the way we got married. It is a love marriage.” When asked whether the claimant would continue to attempt to sponsor her husband, the claimant replied “Yes, he says he does not want to go now but he will agree with me and I will sponsor him.”
 During her hearing before me, the claimant testified that her ex-husband had abused her physically on many occasions between [XXX] 2014 and [XXX] 2015 as well as between [XXX] 2015 and [XXX] 2016. She testified that when she left Pakistan in [XXX] 2016 her intention was to leave and divorce her husband.
 When asked about the discrepancy between her testimony and the statements she made to representatives at the Canadian High Commission in Sri Lanka, the claimant explained that she did not understand the question and so that is why she said that her husband only abused her verbally. She explained that when she was at the High Commission she was so upset that she had “no thoughts of my own” and “no idea what I am doing” and had misspoke. She also indicated at that point that she still hoped her ex-husband might change and they might reconcile.
 I accept the claimant’ s explanation with respect to these inconsistencies. I note that trauma can have an impact on memory and understand that a victim fleeing abuse might not have yet full reconciled or decided whether or how to end her relationship. I also note that these statements were made at a time when the claimant was in turmoil, shortly after fleeing from Pakistan and learning that her permanent residency status in Canada might no longer be valid.
 I also note that there are numerous statements in the GCMS notes disclosed by the Minister which are consistent with the claimant’s version of events recounted during testimony and that these statements pre-date her refugee claim, thus strengthening her credibility. For example, during that same interview which took place at the High Commission on [XXX] 2016, the claimant told officials that her husband and his family forced her to stay in Pakistan and that she had to leave the country without them knowing, that her husband first tried to prohibit her from leaving Pakistan in 2014, and that she was only able to obtain his permission to leave Pakistan to travel to Canada for one month in 2015 to go work on his permanent residency application. The official conducting the interview and drafting the note characterized this as “forcible confinement.”
 Likewise, in an interview conducted on [XXX] 2016, the claimant again told officials that “her husband and his family forced her to stay in Pakistan” which caused her to lose her PR status. Similarly, on [XXX] 2016 the GCMS notes read: “Wife seeking to return to Canada in order to divorce and gain full custody of the children. Subject also the intention of pulling her sponsorship. Wife states that she fears the subject as he may try to get to Canada to kidnap the children.”
 These statements are consistent with the allegations of abuse that the claimant has made against her ex-husband and his family, which includes the allegation that her ex-husband and his family would not let her leave the family home.
 Given the claimant’s explanation, as well as the additional statements about the abuse in the GCMS notes that pre-date the claimant’s refugee claim, I do not find that the inconsistent statements made about the nature of the abuse are sufficient to undermine the presumption of truthfulness.
Delay in submitting a refugee claim
 The claimant arrived in Canada on [XXX] 2016 and was provided with a hearing date to appeal the decision that she had not met the residency requirements necessary to retain her permanent residency status. Her hearing before the Immigration Appeal Division took place on November 23, 2017, the claimant did not appear, and her appeal was thus held to be abandoned by way of decision dated December 11, 2017. Despite this, the claimant did not submit a refugee application until [XXX] 2019.
 The claimant testified that she was confused about the time of the hearing before the Immigration Appeal Division, as she had recently moved from Toronto to Calgary, and did not realize the hearing had been set for Eastern Standard Time rather than Mountain Standard Time. She explained that she missed the hearing and that when she received the decision notifying her that the appeal had been abandoned she retained counsel to help her explain why she had missed the hearing and appeal the abandonment decision. She further explained that she last spoke with her lawyer approximately one week ago and that he continues to be in contact with the Immigration and Refugee Board and that he has not yet received a response regarding her missed hearing. She states that she did not submit a refugee claim earlier because she was waiting to receive a response about the missed hearing from the IAD.
 I asked the claimant if she had any corroborating documents from her lawyer regarding the appeal he is allegedly conducting on her behalf. She explained that she had asked her lawyer for a written statement but that he did not provide one. When asked why the claimant did proceed to file the refugee claim given that her lawyer continued to make inquiries with respect to her claim before the IAD, she explained that she needed legal status in order to remain in Canada and to obtain employment.
 I do not accept the claimant’s explanation regarding her delay in submitting a claim for refugee status. I do not find it believable that her lawyer continues to make inquiries with respect to her abandoned IAD claim nearly three years after that claim was held to be abandoned and that she does not possess any documentation which corroborates this.
 The claimant has not provided a reasonable explanation for why she did not submit a refugee claim until [XXX] 2019. However, I am not prepared to find that this delay undermines her credibility with respect to risk and subjective fear to such an extent that her claim must fail. There could be many reasons why a woman in the claimant’s position would not submit a refugee claim promptly.
Conclusion on Credibility
 The claimant was not a compelling witness. She had to be prompted on several occasions to provide detail and at times she was notable to provide a reliable and cohesive account of her actions. Moreover, there were some inconsistencies between the way in which she described the abuse to different officials. However, as is set out in more detail below, her narrative about the abuse that she endured at the hands of her ex-husband and his family is believable and is supported in many different ways by the objective country evidence about Pakistan. Accordingly, I find that the claimant is a credible witness with respect to the allegations of abuse and her assessment of the risks that she would face if she were to return to Pakistan.
 The claimant alleges that she has been abused by her spouse. I find that the persecution the claimant fears has a nexus to the Convention ground of particular social group, namely female victims of domestic violence.
 The claimant gave birth to her daughter in Canada, but did not have her ex-husband’s permission to travel to Canada with their two sons, who are Canadian citizens. However, as is explained in the reasons that follow, the claimant has a defence pursuant to s. 285 of the Criminal Code, given that she has traveled to Canada to protect herself and her children from danger of imminent harm.
 I also note that the claimant obtained a court order from a Canadian court on [XXX] 2018 providing her with sole custody of her three children. The claimant’s ex-husband was served and there is no indication that he responded. The claimant has provided a copy of this court order to me.
 I thus do not find that the claimant could be excluded under Article 1(F)(b) of the Act.
Well-Founded Fear of Persecution and Risk of Harm
 The claimant is a former permanent resident of Canada who alleges that she fears her ex- husband will kill her if she returns to Pakistan.
 The claimant received permanent residency status in Canada in [XXX] 2007, having been sponsored by her brother who lives in Canada. Between 2007 and 2016, she spent time living in both Canada and Pakistan.
 The claimant testified that she met her ex-husband in 2007 in Pakistan and that they got married in Pakistan on [XXX] 2010. The claimant submitted an application to sponsor her ex-husband to become a permanent resident of Canada in [XXX] 2011. The sponsorship application was denied and the claimant initiated an appeal.
 The claimant lived in Canada for various periods of time between her wedding and [XXX] 2014. She testified that when she returned to Pakistan on [XXX] 2014 her ex-husband had changed and he had suddenly become violent. She attributes this change to the fact that she had been unsuccessful at sponsoring him and that the application and subsequent appeal were taking a long time to process.
 The claimant testified that she stayed in Pakistan with her ex-husband between [XXX] 2014 and [XXX] 2015. During this time, she lived with her ex-husband and his family. She testified that during this time he was emotionally and physically violent towards her on many occasions.
 The claimant explained that she lived with her ex-husband and his parents. The claimant testified that his parents did not intervene to assist her. In fact, she says they were also frequently abusive. As explained in more detail below, this allegation is consistent with the objective evidence about domestic violence in Pakistan.
 The claimant testified that during this period her husband refused to allow her to leave the family home. She testified that she attempted to contact the Canadian consulate in Islamabad and they told her they could not intervene because it was a family matter. In order to try to get help, she contacted a friend who called the police. The police visited the family home in approximately [XXX] 2014. When they arrived, the claimant’s ex-husband did not give the claimant permission to speak with them. He told the police that they had had a small misunderstanding at home and there was no need for their assistance. The claimant testified that the police did not try further to assist her and that after they left her ex-husband abused her physically. She says that after this incident she felt more scared to call the police. Again, the claimant’s description of this incident is consistent with the objective evidence on state protection in Pakistan, described more fully below.
 The claimant testified that her ex-husband also abused their children.
 The claimant returned to Canada in [XXX] 2015. She explained that she was able to negotiate with her ex-husband to allow her to leave the country because she told him she needed to make inquiries about the appeal of his permanent residence application. The claimant’s ex husband allowed her to travel to Canada for one month but told her she would not be allowed to bring their children with her to Canada.
 The claimant stayed in Canada between [XXX] 2015 and [XXX] 2015. The claimant explained that she did not consider staying in Canada and leaving her husband during this period because her children were still in Pakistan.
 The claimant testified that when she returned to Pakistan in [XXX] 2015 things were fine for about two days. After that, the physical and verbal abuse started again. The claimant estimates that the abuse occurred every other day. The claimant says that she contacted the Canadian consulate and once again they told her to contact the police and the courts in Pakistan to help her resolve this issue.
 At one point the claimant left her husband to go stay with one of her friends. The claimant’s friend came and picked her up when her husband was out and the claimant was home alone. The claimant stayed with her friend for approximately 15-20 days, but says that ultimately her husband found her. She believes that he was able to trace her location using her cell phone because he has a friend who works for a mobile company.
 The claimant returned home with her ex-husband and she testified that for a month or two the relationship was fine but then ultimately the abuse escalated once again. This is consistent with the dynamics of abuse.
 Rather than ask the claimant to specifically describe the abuse that she endured at the hands of her ex-husband and his family, as such questions can often be retraumatizing and are unnecessary, I asked her to describe the impact that the abuse had on her. She explained that it caused her to feel stressed out, was mentally exhausting, and that all that she could think about was how she could escape the situation.
 The claimant learnt she was pregnant again in 2016 and that the baby was a girl. She says that her ex-husband and his family began pressuring her to have an abortion because they wanted another boy. She says that she decided at that point she needed to leave her ex-husband.
 The claimant left Pakistan with her children on [XXX] 2016. She traveled to Sri Lanka so that she could apply for Canadian passports for her children, who had been born in Canada, as well as obtain a valid permanent residency card as hers had expired in [XXX] 2016. She arrived in Canada on [XXX] 2016 and submitted a refugee claim on [XXX] 2019.
 The claimant testified that she is worried that her ex-husband will kill her if she returns to Pakistan. She explained that in her culture “men do not leave things like this” because it “relates to honour.”
 The claimant’s allegations are supported by the objective evidence. In Pakistan, women face direct, cultural, and structural violence through a deeply entrenched system of patriarchy in all aspects of public and private life. The Women, Peace and Security Index 2019/20 places Pakistan at 164 out of 167 countries regarding women’s peace and security in the world. Other sources similarly indicate that Pakistan has been ranked the sixth most dangerous country in the world for women and that rates of violence against women, including domestic violence, are increasing in the country.
 The U.S. Department of State Report addresses domestic violence as one of the significant human rights issues in Pakistan. The report says that no specific law prohibits domestic violence and that domestic violence is widespread. Forms of physical violence including beating, physical disfigurement, shaving of women’s eyebrows and hair, and homicide. Family related disputes can result in death or disfigurement by burning or acid. Women who try to report abuse face serious challenges. Police and judges are sometimes reluctant to take action in domestic violence cases, viewing them as family problems. Authorities routinely return abused women to their abusive family members.
 Studies of domestic violence in Pakistan attribute it to deep-rooted patriarchal norms around femininity and masculinity. Such studies have found that if a wife makes a mistake, disobeys her husband, or is wrong, then the husband is viewed as having the justification to beat her. The evidence also overwhelmingly indicates that in Pakistan women’s freedom of movement is restricted. In most households, women are expected to stay at home when they reach puberty and not allowed to have a job, go outside, or meet anyone. This is exacerbated in situations of domestic violence.
 Studies have found that while physical violence is often the most visible form of violence, subtle forms of psychological violence are probably more common. These include verbally abusive language, criticism, and threats, including threatening to “burn them” or “throw acid” on them. In a study conducted in 2008, researchers found that 100% of women had reported having experienced psychological violence.
 The objective evidence indicates that women often not only face violence from their male partners, but also from their in-laws at home, given the tradition of extended families living together in Pakistan. Domestic violence in Pakistan encompasses broader family violence and includes violence perpetrated by members of the marital family, which has been shown to be extremely common. In fact, co-residence with in-laws has been found to be a driving factor for violence.
 Although the claimant has been living in Canada since 2016, and has not been in contact with her ex-husband during that time, she testified that she is still at risk and that he will punish her because she decided to leave him. She explained that this relates to honour and would be treated as a serious breach. I accept that the claimant’s ex-husband and his family adhere to deeply patriarchal values about the role of women and will punish women who defy this norm. In leaving her husband and taking their children to Canada, the claimant has defied her ex-husband’s assumed authority.
 I find that the claimant faces a significant forward-looking risk of serious harm from her ex-husband should she return to Pakistan. I make this finding based on all the evidence before me, including the claimant’s credible testimony about the ways in which her ex-husband physically and psychologically abused her, as well as objective evidence which indicates that domestic violence is tied to deeply rooted patriarchal norms and that women who are perceived to transgress or challenge those norms are particularly at risk.
 In all refugee claims, the state is presumed to be capable of protecting their citizens unless there is clear and convincing evidence to the contrary. In this case, the claimant testified that she asked a friend to call the police on her behalf, and that while the police visited her home she did not receive any meaningful assistance. Her ex-husband refused to allow her to speak to the police and told them that they had had a minor family related dispute. The police did not pursue the matter further.
 The claimant’s experiences with state authorities in seeking protection from domestic violence are supported by the objective documentary evidence in the National Documentation Package. The country condition documents indicate that domestic violence crimes are mostly unreported in Pakistan as it is still seen as a private matter and a matter of shame or dishonour. Pakistan has no comprehensive federal law to tackle violence against women. Although some states have passed legislation on domestic violence, these laws are not operationally effective protection mechanisms for victims.
 Sources indicate that the challenges around implementing legislation on domestic violence in Pakistan are “enormous” and that police and judges are reluctant to take action in domestic violence cases as they view these as “family problems.” Sources also indicate that members of the police service are often verbally abusive when reports of domestic violence are made, and that the police are more likely to question the character of the woman than to help her. Rather than taking action to eradicate violence against women, police appear to enforce social norms to ensure that women do not oppose patriarchal rules. Women similarly have problems accessing the judicial system to obtain protection.
 In view of this evidence, I find that state protection for female victims of domestic violence in Pakistan is inadequate. While the authorities have made efforts to address domestic violence through legislation, these efforts have not been effective on the operational level. In this case, the claimant did make an attempt to obtain protection from the police, who did not even take the step of speaking directly with the claimant. The objective country information evidence demonstrates, however, that state protection is rarely available from authorities in Pakistan. I therefore find that the presumption of state protection has been rebutted in the case of the claimant.
Internal Flight Alternative
 The final issue is whether the claimant has a viable internal flight alternative (IFA) in Pakistan. In order to determine whether an IFA exists, I must assess whether there is any location in Pakistan in which the claimant would not face a serious possibility of persecution and whether it would be reasonable to expect her to move there.
 At the outset of the hearing, I proposed Karachi and Islamabad as potential IFA locations for the claimant. The claimant testified that most of her family lives in Canada rather than Pakistan, and that she has no family at all living in Karachi or Islamabad. The claimant has remarried but her current husband lives in Canada and there is no indication that he would return to Pakistan with her. The claimant explained that it would not be easy as a single woman to live alone in one of those cities and that due to lack of support she would not be able to survive.
 I accept the claimant’s testimony on this point and find that it would be objectively unreasonable, in the context of Pakistan, to require the claimant to relocate and live independently as a single woman. The OECD Report on Social Institutions and Gender Index describes how difficult it is for a woman to live alone in Pakistan. Both laws and customs limit the extent to which women can access property and financial resources. Women are discouraged from working outside the home and are often unable to access formal bank accounts because doing so requires two male guarantors. Only 36% of women own phones, compared with 80% of Pakistani men, and there are reports that women have been killed simply for owning phones, due to the social stigma around interaction with unrelated males.
 The claimant would be separated, single, and without family support in an IFA location. Given the objective evidence, the claimant would be at risk and would struggle to be able to support herself and open a bank account. In such circumstances, I do not find that relocation to an IFA location is a reasonable option.
 For these reasons, I find that the claimant is a Convention refugee and I accept her claim.
 Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, S.C. 2001, c. 27.
 Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB) Chairperson’s Guideline 4: Women Refugee Claimants Fearing Gender-Related Persecution, November 13, 1996
 Exhibit 1.
 Exhibit 5, p. 10.
 Exhibit 5, p. 10.
 Exhibit 5, p. 8.
 Exhibit 5, p. 5.
 Exhibit 5, pp. 19-21.
 R.S.C., 1985, c. C-46.
 Exhibit 4.
 Exhibit 3, National Documentation Package (NDP), Pakistan, March 31, 2020, Item 5.21.
 Exhibit 3, NDP, Item 5.5 Response to Information Request (RIR) PAK106392.E.
 Exhibit 3, NDP, Item 2.1.
 Exhibit 3, NDP, Item 5.19.
 Exhibit 3, NDP, Item 5.19.
 Exhibit 3, NDP, Item 5.19.
 Exhibit 3, NDP, Item 5.19.
 Exhibit 3, NDP, Item 5.19.
 Exhibit 3, NDP, Item 5.5 RIR PAK106392.E.
 Thirunavukkarasu v. Canada (Minister of Employment and Immigration),  1 F.C. 589 (C.A.); (1993), 22 Imm. L.R. (2d) 241 (F.C.A.).
 Exhibit 3, NDP, Item 5.9.