Research Topic

Sexuality, Gender and Asylum: Refugees at a Crossroads

About this Research Topic

Asylum law and policy, sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) are nowadays intrinsically interwoven. Queer migration scholars have explored how sexuality and gender relate to several other characteristics in constituting the scope and nature of migration, and this applies to refugee protection as well. Although human rights have been increasingly recognized irrespective of one’s SOGI at international, regional and domestic levels, legal frameworks do not yet tackle violations of such rights effectively. As a result, members of SOGI minorities may be forced to flee their countries of origin to protect themselves, often making SOGI-based asylum claims in host countries. Since the Refugee Convention was born, there has been a continuous battle for recognition of SOGI claims within a system that was not designed with SOGI minorities in mind.

SOGI asylum claims raise particular issues in the context of any legal system, including the role of private actors and widespread social stigma, the role of legislation criminalizing same-sex conduct in the country of origin, the assessment of credibility, and the assessment of internal relocation alternatives. Moreover, some evidence suggests these claims are disproportionately refused. Scholars from various disciplines have explored how SOGI claims are often treated in an inappropriate and stereotyped way in several jurisdictions, at legal, cultural and social levels, with particular repercussions in relation to claimants’ proof of membership of a particular social group (PSG), risk of persecution and credibility.

Geographical location, political context and internal governance structures all considerably influence the way domestic systems construct their asylum frameworks, including SOGI asylum claims. Several elements of the international refugee and human rights legal frameworks have progressively been used as the basis of SOGI claims, including the Refugee Convention, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), and the EU Common European Asylum System (CEAS).

There are no reliable statistics on the global number of SOGI claimants, but it is clear, based on numerous media and NGO reports and estimates, that thousands of SOGI claimants seek international protection every year. This occurs both through territorial asylum, i.e., claimants undergoing the refugee status determination (RSD) process in host countries, and through resettlement. The great majority of these individuals, however, are forced to take the territorial asylum route, making journeys that are often very dangerous in their search for a safe(r) destination.

In the process of adjudicating SOGI claims, asylum authorities engage in the ‘biopolitical practice of classifying asylum seekers, rendering sexual identities visible and thus amenable to the State’s regulatory oversight’. We thus witness a two-way process: the asylum system simultaneously incorporates and excludes SOGI claimants and refugees, harboring strong tensions between queering and de-queering asylum law and policy. Much literature has explored these tensions and a range of aspects of the social and legal experiences of SOGI asylum claimants and refugees, initially mostly in the context of common law jurisdictions, but subsequently increasingly in the European context, and more recently in the African, Middle Eastern, and Latin American contexts as well.

Despite this growing body of literature on the topic of SOGI asylum, it is clear that many theoretical, geographical and practical challenges and gaps remain. This Research Topic aims to address some of those.

This Research Topic on SOGI asylum has the merit of addressing a range of aspects that have been offered insufficient attention. It does so by bringing together interdisciplinary and original contributions that push the boundaries of our knowledge and understanding of SOGI asylum on the following topics (but not limited to):

- How Country of Origin Information (COI) and the notion of ‘safe country’ apply to SOGI asylum, particularly in the context of the European Union;
- How ‘heteronormativity’, ‘mononormativity’, ‘homonormativity’ and ‘homonationalism’ combine to frame and influence SOGI asylum claim adjudication;
- How SOGI asylum claims are dealt with in one of the European countries that is at the forefront of refugee reception, namely Greece;
- What are the experiences of SOGI asylum claimants and refugees from particular countries, such as post-Soviet countries;
- How can the lived experiences of SOGI asylum claimants and refugees be theoretically understood, particularly drawing from intersectional and spatial geographical perspectives;
- How sub-categories of SOGI asylum claimants face particular challenges that require specific attention, namely lesbian claimants, transgender and gender non-conforming claimants;
- Finally, what role does activism play for SOGI asylum claimants and refugees, in particular those who identify as transgender.

Very limited literature can be found on each of these specific issues, and this Research Topic can go a long way in addressing these gaps. Combined, these pieces make a valuable contribution to the existing literature and current debates on SOGI asylum, advancing both theoretical and policy debates on SOGI asylum.


Keywords: Asylum Law, Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, Country of Origin, Heteronormativity, Mononormativity, Homonormativity, Migration, SOGI


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

Asylum law and policy, sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) are nowadays intrinsically interwoven. Queer migration scholars have explored how sexuality and gender relate to several other characteristics in constituting the scope and nature of migration, and this applies to refugee protection as well. Although human rights have been increasingly recognized irrespective of one’s SOGI at international, regional and domestic levels, legal frameworks do not yet tackle violations of such rights effectively. As a result, members of SOGI minorities may be forced to flee their countries of origin to protect themselves, often making SOGI-based asylum claims in host countries. Since the Refugee Convention was born, there has been a continuous battle for recognition of SOGI claims within a system that was not designed with SOGI minorities in mind.

SOGI asylum claims raise particular issues in the context of any legal system, including the role of private actors and widespread social stigma, the role of legislation criminalizing same-sex conduct in the country of origin, the assessment of credibility, and the assessment of internal relocation alternatives. Moreover, some evidence suggests these claims are disproportionately refused. Scholars from various disciplines have explored how SOGI claims are often treated in an inappropriate and stereotyped way in several jurisdictions, at legal, cultural and social levels, with particular repercussions in relation to claimants’ proof of membership of a particular social group (PSG), risk of persecution and credibility.

Geographical location, political context and internal governance structures all considerably influence the way domestic systems construct their asylum frameworks, including SOGI asylum claims. Several elements of the international refugee and human rights legal frameworks have progressively been used as the basis of SOGI claims, including the Refugee Convention, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), and the EU Common European Asylum System (CEAS).

There are no reliable statistics on the global number of SOGI claimants, but it is clear, based on numerous media and NGO reports and estimates, that thousands of SOGI claimants seek international protection every year. This occurs both through territorial asylum, i.e., claimants undergoing the refugee status determination (RSD) process in host countries, and through resettlement. The great majority of these individuals, however, are forced to take the territorial asylum route, making journeys that are often very dangerous in their search for a safe(r) destination.

In the process of adjudicating SOGI claims, asylum authorities engage in the ‘biopolitical practice of classifying asylum seekers, rendering sexual identities visible and thus amenable to the State’s regulatory oversight’. We thus witness a two-way process: the asylum system simultaneously incorporates and excludes SOGI claimants and refugees, harboring strong tensions between queering and de-queering asylum law and policy. Much literature has explored these tensions and a range of aspects of the social and legal experiences of SOGI asylum claimants and refugees, initially mostly in the context of common law jurisdictions, but subsequently increasingly in the European context, and more recently in the African, Middle Eastern, and Latin American contexts as well.

Despite this growing body of literature on the topic of SOGI asylum, it is clear that many theoretical, geographical and practical challenges and gaps remain. This Research Topic aims to address some of those.

This Research Topic on SOGI asylum has the merit of addressing a range of aspects that have been offered insufficient attention. It does so by bringing together interdisciplinary and original contributions that push the boundaries of our knowledge and understanding of SOGI asylum on the following topics (but not limited to):

- How Country of Origin Information (COI) and the notion of ‘safe country’ apply to SOGI asylum, particularly in the context of the European Union;
- How ‘heteronormativity’, ‘mononormativity’, ‘homonormativity’ and ‘homonationalism’ combine to frame and influence SOGI asylum claim adjudication;
- How SOGI asylum claims are dealt with in one of the European countries that is at the forefront of refugee reception, namely Greece;
- What are the experiences of SOGI asylum claimants and refugees from particular countries, such as post-Soviet countries;
- How can the lived experiences of SOGI asylum claimants and refugees be theoretically understood, particularly drawing from intersectional and spatial geographical perspectives;
- How sub-categories of SOGI asylum claimants face particular challenges that require specific attention, namely lesbian claimants, transgender and gender non-conforming claimants;
- Finally, what role does activism play for SOGI asylum claimants and refugees, in particular those who identify as transgender.

Very limited literature can be found on each of these specific issues, and this Research Topic can go a long way in addressing these gaps. Combined, these pieces make a valuable contribution to the existing literature and current debates on SOGI asylum, advancing both theoretical and policy debates on SOGI asylum.


Keywords: Asylum Law, Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, Country of Origin, Heteronormativity, Mononormativity, Homonormativity, Migration, SOGI


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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Submission Deadlines

19 December 2020 Abstract
18 April 2021 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

19 December 2020 Abstract
18 April 2021 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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