5 November|Wednesday|Talk on Sexual Orientation and Asylum Law

You are invited for a talk at ALF on

    Asylum in the European Union on grounds of Persecution for Sexual Orientation: Relevance for Indian Claimants by Bruce Leimsidor

    Wednesday, the 5th of November at 6 pm.

Although the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) had, for several years, recommended that persecution because of sexual orientation be included as grounds for protection under the 1951 Geneva Convention, it was only in 2004 that the European Union formally included such persecution as grounds for granting refugee status and obliged member states to incorporate such grounds in their national refugee legislation by 2006. This undisputedly positive step has lead, however, to a series of procedural and legal issues concerning adjudications and pre hearing treatment of claimants; many adjudicating bodies and legal counselors were, and still frequently are, unprepared to deal properly with sexual orientation issues. Moreover, many LGBT activist organizations misinterpreted the law and its scope, giving at times misleading advice to potential applicants. While many gay and lesbian applicants have now requested and received asylum in the European Union, the issue is still, nevertheless, riddled with misunderstandings at times producing unfortunate results.

While all European Union countries are obliged under the EU 2004 directive to recognize persecution for sexual orientation as grounds for asylum, neither the 1951 Geneva Convention nor the 2004 EU Directive actually define persecution. Moreover, there is a great deal of variation among European countries, and even among the regional asylum adjudicating bodies within the individual countries, on what constitutes persecution. The UNHCR guidance on this issue has frequently gone unheeded, or interpreted in inconsistent ways. Hence, the preparation of an asylum case requires not only a detailed knowledge of condition in the country of origin, but also the history of the specific adjudicating board to which the case is presented.

Since the re criminalization of homosexuality in India in Dec. 2013, the possibility of asylum in Europe has special relevance for Indian gays and lesbians. While a successful application on their part for asylum in Europe is quite possible— there have already been successful Indian cases in the West—, the nature, enforcement, and effects of 377 create conditions that must be taken into consideration. The European Union does not demand that persecution be conducted by the state; recognized persecution can be by private agents, even family, if the state will not provide protection. Hence, direct enforcement of 377 is not a prerequisite for a successful asylum claim. There are, however, other problematic issues, given the specific nature of Indian homophobia, that must be taken into consideration in lodging a successful asylum claim in Europe.

That there are now, since Dec. 2013, Indian gays and lesbians coming into Europe, as well as North America and Australia, and claiming asylum, should be recognized by the current Indian government in assessing its human rights record. Perhaps because of relative inaction by Indian LGBT organizations — a couple of demonstrations aren’t really enough— the international human rights community is still basically unaware of the 377 issue. Increasing numbers of gay Indians claiming asylum in the West will, of course, bring the matter to the fore and further tarnish India’s human rights record.

About the Speaker:
Bruce Leimsidor currently teaches European asylum law at Ca’ Foscari University, Venice. He has been concurrently counselor for asylum affairs in the Venice municipality’s program for asylum seekers. Prior to his positions in Venice, he was a senior resettlement expert at UNHCR’s central resource center in Nairobi, Kenya, covering east and central Africa. He has also served as director of the US State Department’s Overseas Processing Entity (OPE) in Vienna, Austria, the central office covering US refugee admissions through Central Europe, and was the director of the Central European office of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS). He has taught at the American University, Paris; Oberlin College; Occidental College; and Indiana University. He is a graduate of Swarthmore College and holds an advanced degree from Princeton University.

Time: 6 pm
Date: Wednesday , 5th November 2014
Venue: Alternative Law Forum, 122/4, Infantry Road, Bangalore
(Next to Balaji Art Gallery)

Entry is free. All are welcome.