Written by LGBTQIA+ refugee activist living in South Africa, Arnold Mulaisho
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQIA+) activists, advocates, communities, allies and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) commemorate World Refugee Day 2022 under the theme: the right to seek safety.
World Refugee Day presents an opportunity to widely express our concern for LGBTQIA+ communities, migrants and refugees whose lives are negatively affected by laws criminalising homosexuality. We take this opportunity to reflect and advocate for their human rights, and to increase awareness about the opportunities that migration offers LGBTQIA+ individuals around the world with regard to safety, security and freedom to live authentically. World Refugee Day is thus an opportunity to show solidarity and embrace diversity.
The main principle guiding the human rights approach for sexual orientation and gender identity minority groups, relates to equality and non-discrimination and dignity. LGBTQIA+ people living in countries that criminalise homosexuality are highly vulnerable to human rights violations with no or limited protection from the law. Same-sex relationships between consenting adults are illegal and frowned upon. Consequently, LGBTQIA+ individuals do not enjoy the same rights as cisgender and/or heterosexual persons. Queer people living under homophobic laws are not free from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. Homophobic laws lead to rampant hate crime and unfair discrimination. Some legal systems maintain a higher age of consent for same-sex relations in comparison with opposite relations. Court cases involving LGBTQIA+ persons are conducted by an uninformed or biased judiciary, therefore, often unfair. LGBTQIA+ persons may risk prosecution, illegal arrest, limitation of their freedom of movement, illegal detention and the death penalty for violating anti-sodomy laws.
LGBTQIA+ persons can seek safety in countries protecting human rights and equality as refugees or asylum seekers. Despite this, many continue to face discrimination, homophobia together with xenophobia in countries that claim to implement equal rights, security and safety for all.
Human rights advocates, lawyers and activists actively seek to ensure justice and protection of relevant rights; and hold state parties accountable to ensure the safety of the LGBTQIA+ community across the world. Essentially, laws criminalising LGBTQIA+ people limit multiple rights and make it difficult for LGBTQIA+ persons to live dignified lives. On World Refugee Day (20th June), we therefore advocate for the right of LGBTQIA+ migrants experiencing human violations in their countries, and for hosting countries to adequately enhance their support, and implement the values of human rights when providing refuge.