September 27, 2014 – Reported by the Guardian.com – This week, Guardian Australia published the painful stories of gay Iranian men on Manus Island, who recounted being indefinitely detained in a place that criminalises homosexuality. Just yesterday, new legislation was passed that will radically reshape the lives of asylum seekers who arrived onshore after 13 August 2012. For lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) people pursuing refugee claims, these new laws will be especially cruel.
For starters, the law will “fast track” asylum claims. Asylum seekers dealing with the shame, stigma, and secrecy associated with their sexuality or gender identity will now essentially be required to “come out” to immigration officials.
All of us need space to navigate our identities and many of us still struggle with telling others for fear of rejection or abuse. Yet, if refugees fail to do so immediately, they will be at risk of deportation.
Even when they disclose, the system demands that you prove your “gayness” in order to qualify for protection. If you had just a week or two, this requirement becomes even more cumbersome. What evidence can you gather? Do you butch or femme up for the interview? Do you quickly brush up on Lady Gaga? Do you have sex and have you or your partner(s) take photos during it?
Previous decisions reveal that asylum seekers are conscripted into answering questions about their sexual activities, their tastes in popular culture, and even their knowledge of gay bars in the countries from which they came. The department lacks comprehensive guidelines for assessing LGBTI claims, which means questions can be asked on a range of intrusive and inappropriate matters.