Protecting Persons with Diverse Sexual Orientations and Gender Identities

On Dec 21, 2015 UNHCR published this document.  UNHCR

The document at hand presents key findings from a project undertaken globally between July 2014 and May 2015 to assess progress made by UNHCR country and regional operations to effectively protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) asylum-seekers and refugees. Globally, 106 offices, or roughly 90% of eligible country and regional operations, participated in the assessment. The key findings are presented along the following axes: legal, cultural and social context; outreach activities; displacement conditions; asylum and durable solutions; training on issues related to sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI); operational guidelines and advocacy efforts.

Offices reported that legislative, social, and cultural discrimination against LGBTI persons is pervasive globally, and that such discrimination significantly impedes UNHCR’s LGBTI-focused protection efforts. While laws criminalising LGBTI identity, expression, and association were most frequently noted in Africa, Asia-Pacific, and the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), social exclusion and other forms of violence were reported by offices in all five regions. In countries where discriminatory laws exist but are not enforced, offices discussed instances where such laws nonetheless offer social sanction for harassment and violence against LGBTI persons, including blackmail, extortion, and intimidation by authorities. Offices also reported that laws of general application, including laws pertaining to public decency, marriage, and sex work, may be disproportionately applied to target LGBTI persons. Even where legal protections exist for LGBTI persons, some offices noted these protections may not be guaranteed in practice.

Almost two thirds of participating offices indicated having implemented reception or registration measures specifically targeting LGBTI persons of concern to UNHCR. Among these offices, the most common measures in place include (a) ensuring that registration forms are gender neutral and do not assume a particular sexual orientation and (b) creating ‘safe spaces,’ such as secure waiting areas and special times for LGBTI persons to register. Although only one third of participating offices reported formal partnerships to assist with outreach to LGBTI persons of concern, two thirds indicated having established referral pathways to and from external organisations for SOGI-related issues. In countries with widespread hostility toward LGBTI persons, offices called for further support in developing culturally sensitive training materials and standard outreach materials that take into account challenging operational contexts.

Offices expressed that LGBTI asylum-seekers and refugees are subject to severe social exclusion and violence in countries of asylum by both the host community and the broader asylum-seeker and refugee community. While the degree of acceptance of LGBTI persons was reported as very low in all accommodation settings, the lowest degrees of acceptance, across all respondents, were noted in camp settings. Similarly, of the 39 offices that indicated efforts to specifically track the situation of LGBTI persons of concern in immigration detention facilities, most indicated that LGBTI persons are frequently subject to abuse and/or exploitation by both detention authorities and other inmates. Almost one third of participating offices indicated having supported LGBTI persons to access justice mechanisms in countries of asylum. Many offices, however, noted the limitations of providing such assistance due to widespread prejudice among law enforcement and judicial bodies against LGBTI persons.

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