asylum əsī´ləm [key], extension of hospitality and protection to a fugitive and the place where such protection is offered. The use of temples and churches for this purpose in ancient and medieval times was known as sanctuary . In modern international law, the granting of asylum to refugees from other lands is the right of a state by virtue of its territorial sovereignty. A fugitive, however, has no right to demand asylum from the state to which he flees; that state makes its own determination in each case. Between most nations there are treaties of extradition providing for the mutual surrender of fugitives from justice, and there is a tendency to confine the granting of asylum to political refugees and victims of apparent discrimination and intolerance. Asylum has sometimes been granted more broadly; some Third World women have successfully sought asylum for themselves or their daughters in the United States or other Western nations to avoid forced genital mutilation, a traditional practice in a number of societies (see circumcision ). A situation causing many international disputes is the use of embassies and legations, by virtue of their status of extraterritoriality , as places of refuge in times of disorder and conflict. Most countries do not offer this type of asylum except when it seems necessary for the preservation of human life.
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