Homosexuality still a problem in many countries

​The human rights of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders (LGBTs) are under pressure in many countries.

LGBTViolations of their ‘gay rights’ vary from subtle discrimination to torture and imprisonment. In some countries, homosexuality (or homosexual practice) is even punishable by death.

The Netherlands offers protection to those who have left their country for fear of being prosecuted for their sexual orientation.

Overview of LGBT legislation worldwide (Source: www.ilga.org)

Homosexual – yes or no?

It is not easy to assess whether a person is gay. Still, the IND official will have to assess the credibility of the story of an asylum seeker who claims to have experienced problems in his or her country or origin because of his or her homosexual orientation.

Usually, asylum seekers have to substantiate their asylum application. The IND gives an asylum seeker ample opportunity to make a statement on his or her sexual orientation and the situation of LGBTs in his or her country of origin. It is up to the asylum seeker to tell a credible story (account). This is sometimes difficult in case of homosexuality, because an asylum seeker's (inner) identity cannot be determined from the outside. The IND will never ask for details of an asylum seeker's sex life. Nor will the IND perform medical tests (including a psychological assessment) or make video recordings in order to ‘prove’ homosexuality - not even if the asylum seekers provides material him or herself as a substantiation. When assessing such a request, account is taken of the fact that it is not possible for a person to show conclusively that he or she is homosexual. If this person claims to be homosexual and therefore has left the country of origin, it is up to him to substantiate the alleged sexual orientation. But how will an IND official be able to properly assess whether an asylum seeker's story is credible?

Individual approach

It is important to realise that LGBTs come in all shapes and sizes. Knowledge of homosexuality and the gay community in a country, but also experiences with other people of the same sex may differ per person.

The IND will assess whether an asylum seeker's sexual orientation is credible, or whether the asylum seeker only uses this as a motive for obtaining a residence permit. The questions asked by the IND deal with the problems a homosexual asylum seeker claims to have experienced in his or her country of origin. The IND also assesses how he or she used to implement and currently implements his or her sexual orientation.

"I was denying I was gay. I was scared to tell them the truth. I was scared that after the interview the IND might put me back to X. [country of origin].[…] It is not the fault of the IND employee that I did not tell anything. He was just doing his job and had his questions he had to ask. I do not blame him. Sometimes I blame myself. He even tried to ask me at some point: 'Are you gay?'. I denied, because I was not feeling safe."

(Bron: PINK SOLUTIONS - Inventarisatie situatie LHBT asielzoekers/Lieneke Luit)

In doing so, the IND official will assess the ‘consistency’ of the statements made by a homosexual asylum seeker – which incidentally applies to all asylum applications. He will also check if these statements are consistent with what is known about the general situation for LGBTs in the country of origin.

Safe environment

As LGBTs usually come from an environment in which a taboo is attached to homosexuality or transgenderism, many of them find it difficult to talk openly about their sexual orientation. Especially if they have negative experiences with the authorities in their country, they cannot feel free to tell their story without caution. 

To ensure that homosexual asylum seekers are not ashamed to talk about this subject, the IND set up training courses for IND officials a few years ago, together with the COA, Dutch Council for Refugees and COC Netherlands. These training courses deal with matters such as: how to create a good atmosphere during the conversation? How to allow a person to tell his or her story? These training courses also focus on stereotypes, a late coming out and the role of the interpreter.

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COC Netherlands