In all regions of the world, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) people flee their home countries due to serious violations of their fundamental human rights, including executions, violent attacks from state and non-state actors, torture and imprisonment. Human Rights First’s Refugee Protection Program works to ensure LGBTI refugees can access assistance, refugee status determination procedures and refugee resettlement on the basis of equality and with dignity. Our work seeks to inform and educate policy makers about the protection gaps experienced by LGBTI refugees as well as suggest steps that they can take to improve protection for all. Human Rights First undertakes this work in coalition with a broad range of human rights and refugee protection organizations. Human Rights First’s Fighting Discrimination Program also works to combat discrimination and violence by reversing the tide of anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant, homophobic and anti-Muslim violence and reducing other bias crimes.
Currently over 70 countries consider consensual same-sex conduct illegal, and five countries punish homosexual acts by death. Persecution is rampant and widespread.
The 2010 U.S. State Department’s Annual Human Rights Report documents several extreme cases of persecution directed at LGBTI individuals, as well as restrictions on freedom of association and expression. The report documents LGBTI-related human rights incidents in almost every country of the world. Some of the most serious abuses include:
- In Iraq, gay men face arbitrary arrest , discrimination and torture;
- LGBTI individuals in Jamaica have been victims of hate crime including mob attacks and rape;
- An “Anti-Homosexuality Bill” in Uganda has increased discrimination and incited violence against sexual minorities;
- In Indonesia, police have provided only limited protection to LGBTI activists as they have sought to organize and hold events. As a result, LGBTI people there have faced violence and other abuses.
In May 2011, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay called for States to do more to confront prejudice towards LGBT persons. She highlighted the recent violent attacks against LGBT people in a number of countries, such as Brazil, Honduras, South Africa and the United States, as a problem of global concern.
Collectively, abuses targeting LGBTI people represent a global crisis in human rights and serve to highlight significant obstacles in achieving equality and dignity for all.
Human rights violations targeting LGBTI people often cause them to seek safe and secure refuge outside of their national borders. When they flee, LGBTI refugees may find themselves in neighboring countries that criminalize same-sex conduct or condone high levels of violence and discrimination against LGBTI people.
Many governments are unable or unwilling to respond to violence directed toward the LGBTI community. As a result, LGBTI refugees often remain underground and face particular barriers when attempting to access refugee status determination procedures as well as assistance and protection.