Constance Pimentel - Teen Aspect - August 11th, 2022
Due to the various socio-economic and political issues plaguing the world, refugee crises are more prevalent than ever. However, what many fail to consider are the various dangers that may arise as an LGBTQIA+ refugee. Refugees constantly face uncomfortable and even dangerous situations which may quickly escalate when their sexuality is discovered. Approximately 70 countries worldwide currently have legislation in place prohibiting homosexuality, creating a homophobic sentiment throughout these nations’ citizens. Despite many decriminalization efforts, this homophobia persists and often follows refugees, forcing them to carry this burden while trying to leave some of their pain behind. This manifests as an increase in violent crimes targeted towards members of the LGBTQIA+ community in all settings, but especially in ones similar to those of refugee camps. With limited supplies and monitoring of the refugees, there are not many resources set in place to prevent these attacks or secure the wellbeing of LGBTQIA+ refugees within the camps.
Not only are LGBTQIA+ refugees forced to face homophobia, but they are also commonly subjected to violence or treated as sex toys by other refugees. Binyamin (not his real name), a 19-year-old refugee, mentioned in an interview with ireads, “‘They don’t consider us human,” he says, “but as slaves or sexual objects.”’ This abuse has reached the point that many LGBTQIA+ people avoid disclosing their sexualities when seeking refugee status so as to not attract unwanted attention to themselves because, for many, this attention can prove deadly. Being at risk of violence, both physical and sexual, is enough to cause serious damage to anyone’s mental health, especially in situations such as these. It makes them feel as though being who they are is not worth the risk and causes them to abandon all hope of safely expressing themselves. No one deserves to feel this way, especially when someone has the power to change it. When the world’s governments have the ability to make conditions at these refugee camps safer and better quality and choose not to, that is serious neglect and this indifference toward their refugees is not to be tolerated. This is a horrendous example of the several cases of abuse that refugees are likely to face, but it does not stop there.
As if the risk of sexual harassment and assault was not enough, these refugees are often neglected in terms of receiving the medical care that they require during this process. A study conducted by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law found that LGBTQIA+ refugees and asylum seekers are underserved and “require targeted resources to ensure their safety and access to necessary medical care, especially for transgender and gender non-conforming individuals.” The problem is that many of the people who decide what medical attention these refugees do or do not receive may base their decision on archaic standards of what it means to be transgender. For example, there are several instances where transgender refugees are denied access to gender-affirming care simply due to the fact that they have not undergone any gender affirmation surgery. These ideas may lead to issues, such as gender dysphoria, among transgender or gender non-conforming refugees. It also contradicts decades of progress in securing the necessary medical attention for transgender people.
With the living conditions in many refugee camps already being borderline uninhabitable and dangerous, work needs to be done to secure the safety and dignity of LGBTQIA+ refugees. More consideration needs to be given to marginalized groups in these camps in order to establish ways to better provide a secure environment where LGBTIA+ refugees may express their identity and receive proper medical care freely and without apprehension.
Deutsche Welle (www.dw.com). (2017). Hostile environment for homosexual refugees. DW.COM. https://www.dw.com/en/hostile-environment-for-homosexual-refugees/a-39673732
Johnstone, C. (2022, July 22). New study on LGBTQ refugees and asylum seekers highlights the need for data and research. Out In Jersey. https://outinjersey.net/new-study-on-lgbtq-refugees-and-asylum-seekers-highlights-the-need-for-data-and-research/
Strudwick, P. (2022, July 21). LGBT Afghans face sexual violence while stuck in refugee camps almost a year after fall of Kabul. Inews.Co.Uk. https://inews.co.uk/news/long-reads/lgbt-afghans-trapped-refugee-camps-1750997