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4 February 2013
A leading lawyer will today call for greater protections for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) asylum seekers who, after facing extreme stigmatisation, isolation and physical and mental harm in their countries of origin, are put under increasing pressure to 'prove' their sexual orientation.
Delivering the 11th Annual Stonewall Lecture hosted by the Law Society, S Chelvan, a barrister at No 5 Chambers with an international reputation in the field of asylum claims based on sexual or gender identity, will claim that the UK has not done enough to protect LGBT asylum seekers.
A 2010 landmark ruling found that gay men, lesbians and bisexuals should be allowed to stay in the UK if they are not able to live openly and freely without persecution in their home country.
But asylum seekers are now put under increasing pressure to 'prove' their sexual orientation, with some governments considering tick-the-box type questionnaires, Chelvan will argue. There are currently 80 countries that criminalise consensual same-sex activity, whilst five countries impose the death penalty.
Chelvan will introduce his DSSH (Difference, Stigma, Shame, Harm) model as an alternative way of supporting refugee claims based on sexual or gender identity.
S Chelvan said:
“Gay and lesbian asylum seekers come to the UK for protection, but a culture of disbelief sees some go to extreme lengths to prove their sexuality. They find themselves in an intolerable position. It is inhumane. It is wrong.”
Law Society president Lucy Scott-Moncrieff said:
"We tend to think that, in terms of LGBT rights and protections, we've got it right. That in the UK, LGBT individuals have equal rights and are protected against discrimination. Yet there is a question whether these rights and protections apply to the most vulnerable individuals: asylum seekers who have fled to the UK because in their country of origin their situation is so dire, so desperate that they fear for their own safety."
Stonewall Chief Executive Ben Summerskill said:
"We know from our work with the Foreign Office and equality campaigners worldwide that in many countries LGB & T people live in real fear for their lives. When they flee from persecution it’s absolutely right that countries like Britain should treat them with respect and care. We can’t return to a situation where people were being deported to countries where they were at risk of being executed just because of the way they were born.”
The 11th Annual Stonewall Lecture is organised by the Law Society and the Bar Council in association with Stonewall, InterLaw Diversity Forum, and the Bar Lesbian and Gay Group.
The lecture will be chaired by The Rt. Hon. Sir Terence Etherton, The Chancellor of the High Court. The vote of thanks will be proposed by Ben Summerskill, Chief Executive of Stonewall.