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[Blog] What does a genuine lesbian/gay relationship look like in the eyes of asylum decision makers?

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posted on 2023-06-09, 07:16 authored by Nina Held
Asylum seekers who seek international protection on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity (SOGI) need to show that they have a ‘well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of […] membership of a particular social group’ (1951 Geneva Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees). This means that claimants need to prove that they belong to the particular social groups of lesbian/bisexual/gay/transgender/intersex. In the UK, research conducted by the UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group (UKLGIG) in 2010, before a crucial ruling by the Supreme Court (HT and HJ), found that the refusal rate of SOGI asylum claims was disproportionally high (98-99% in contrast to 60-70% of all asylum claims). The majority of SOGI claims are now refused on grounds of ‘credibility’, i.e. the claimant is not believed to be LBG (UKLGIG 2013). In the seven years that I volunteered for the Lesbian Immigration Support Group (LISG) in Manchester, I have seen many cases where women were not believed to be genuine lesbians (see Held 2015). Often, even if women are in (long-term) relationships it is questioned whether their relationship is genuine and whether their case falls under the social group requirement. Therefore, this paper asks: what makes a genuine lesbian/gay relationship? What parameters guide decision makers in determining whether a relationship is genuine or not? How might intersections of gender, class, sexuality, nationality and ‘race’ impact on the valuation of a genuine relationship? The paper also briefly introduces the European research project SOGICA – Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Claims of Asylum, a comparative study that explores such questions (and many others) in order to determine how asylum claims on the basis of SOGI can be treated more fairly across Europe.


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  • Sociology and Criminology Publications

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  • Centre for Gender Studies Publications


Issue 44

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