The Role of Rights in Asylum Claims on the Basis of Sexual Orientation

Nottingham University Press
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Human Rights Law Review, 2004, 4 (2), pp. 193 - 228
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It is now widely accepted that lesbians, gay men and transgendered people may make refugee claims on the grounds of their membership of the 'particular social group' category of the Refugee Convention. Claims to protection made by lesbians and gay men based on sexual orientation extend the outsider nature of the refugee claim and its relationship to human rights. To claim 'core' human rights for lesbians and gay men is paradoxical given the marginality of sexual minorities in human rights jurisprudence to date. Sexual orientation has only very recently been acknowledged as a valid loci of human rights in international law and is typically still far from widely accepted as the basis for equality claims in many refugee receiving nations. This paper does not propose that Constitutional equality guarantees are a panacea for discrimination on the basis of sexuality (or indeed on any other basis). Nor do I argue that there is necessarily a direct and demonstrable impact upon refugee decision-making in the countries under discussion. Rather, I suggest that a greater familiarity with lesbian and gay claims across a range of areas in tandem with a deeper and longer standing engagement with equality analysis has meant that Canadian decision-makers, unlike those in Australia and especially those in the UK, have been more ready to connect sexual orientation claims with human rights norms. This, in turn, has had a pervasive impact upon what decision-makers are prepared to construe as persecutory in sexuality based claims.
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