Because June is both Pride and Refugee Awareness Month, we’d like to highlight some of the unique issues facing LGBTQI refugees around the world.
LGBTQI Refugees face higher levels of discrimination at home and in refugee camps
In many countries homosexuality is still a crime. Many LGBTQI people are forced to flee their homes because they receive death threats or face long prison sentences, including the death sentence, or are even beaten or otherwise physically and mentally abused. Yet even when they reach refugee camps in neighboring countries, such as Ugandans who have fled to Kenya (homosexuality is still illegal in Kenya, but the law is not always enforced) they can continue to face discrimination, persecution, and exclusion.
Over the years, refugees have shared stories of being targeted by mob violence in refugee camps, attributing the anti-gay rhetoric to powerful religious leaders who have sway in some communities. For others, like many from Uganda, anti-gay laws and inciteful rhetoric are still part of national law. And in Chechnya, a region in Russia, stories of state-sanctioned torture against gay people surfaced in 2017 and continue today.
Everyone has a right to life, bodily integrity, and freedom of movement
Currently, there are 71 countries where homosexuality is illegal, though it defies the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights - signed in 1976 by 171 countries. Today, in several nations, such as Uganda, Saudi Arabia, and Brunei, plans are being been put in place to enact even harsher criminal penalties, including the death penalty, for those believed to be gay. As of 2020, 11 countries still use the death penalty as a punishment for ‘crime’ of homosexuality.
Under U.S and international law, a refugee is someone who faces “persecution due to race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group,” such as the LGBTQI community. While there are many human rights organizations working to ensure freedom of movement and safety for LGBTQI people around the world, it’s important to remember that discrimination continues to exist across the globe, even during and after resettlement in a third country.
To learn more about the work of international human rights organizations defending the rights of LGBTQI people globally, check out Human Dignity Trust, the UNHCR’s efforts to safeguard the rights of LGBTQI individuals, especially refugees, and the ILGA.
Learn more about One Digital World’s origins working with African and Middle Eastern refugees in Greece in our past blogs here.
Support refugees in Mexico today here.