Analysis of UN Guidance Note on LGBT refugees

by on July 31, 2009  •  In International

Professor Nicole LaViolette (University of Ottawa Law) has just published an analysis of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees' Guidance Note on Refugee Claims Relating to Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.  Excerpts follow; HT Oscar Cabrera -

…In addition to being the UNHCR’s first analysis of sexual orientation and gender identity in the context of refugee protection, the [Guidance] Note also represents one of very few United Nations legal examinations of the situation of sexual minorities.

With the release of the Guidance Note, the UNHCR has finally recognized that sexual minorities have encountered a specific set of problems in having the refugee definition applied to their claims. The international agency suggests in its analysis that the growing number of refugee claims made by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals “necessitate[s] greater awareness among decision-makers of the specific experiences of LGBT asylum-seekers.”

In the Guidance Note, the UNHCR sets out to examine legal questions essential to any determination of refugee status and highlights the ways in which the refugee law analysis needs to account for the specific situation of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender refugees…. 

…[T]he Guidance Note should not be viewed as a full and complete analysis of refugee claims based on sexual orientation and gender identity, [but] it provides a first and necessary interpretive road map for decision-makers responsible for determining such claims. At the very least, the document will provide a basis for further commentary on the many issues facing gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender refugees.


One Response to Analysis of UN Guidance Note on LGBT refugees

  1. Mark Zamen August 5, 2009 at 1:41 PM

    Recognition by the UN that these issues exist and warrant further attention is a very positive development. This is a first step on the road to ensuring that these refugees, like all other law-abiding persons, are afforded the respect and consideration they deserve. The sad fact remains that a large segment of society, including official agencies, still regards gay men and women (among various minorities) as second-class citizens – or worse. That is the salient point of my recently released biographical novel, Broken Saint. It is based on my forty-year friendship with a gay man, and chronicles his internal and external struggles as he battles for acceptance (of himself and by others). More information on the book is available at link to

    Mark Zamen author

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