Germany’s government has approved legislation that will offer €3,000 in compensation for gay military personnel who have experienced discrimination.
Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, Germany’s defence minister, said: “I know that we can’t make up for the personal injustice they suffered but, with the lifting of verdicts and the payment of lump-sum compensation, we want to send a signal of redress.”
The new legislation aims to “restore the dignity of these people who wanted nothing other than to serve Germany”, according to Kramp-Karrenbauer.
The legislation still requires paliamentary approval, but Kramp-Karrenbauer is optimistic about getting the support of lawmakers. She hopes to “rehabilitate and compensate those affected next year”.
The ministry previously commissioned a study and found “systemic discrimination” in the military from 1955 to 2000. This included both West Germany’s military, the Bundeswehr, and the military of reunited Germany from 1990.
The study found that homosexuality was “viewed as a security risk in the Bundeswehr until the turn of the millennium and made a career as an officer or non-commissioned officer impossible”.
The new legislation will also cover victims of discrimination in East Germany’s National People’s Army. Kramp-Karrenbauer said this was “an important signal” because 2020 marks 30 years since the reunification of Germany.
The government will offer €3,000 in compensation to personnel who received military court verdicts for consensual gay sex. Soldiers who were dismissed, denied for promotions or put under investigation will also be eligible for compensation.
In September, Kramp-Karrenbauer apologised to those who suffered discrimination.
The defence minister said: “I very much regret the practice of discrimination against homosexuals in the Bundeswehr, which stood for the policy of that time. I apologize to those who suffered because of it.”
This comes after the UK Ministry of Defence apologised for similar policies in January. However, the UK has not yet introduced an official compensation scheme for those dismissed from the military on grounds of their sexual orientation.
More than 150 people have sought compensation in the UK, though its thought the true number affected is likely to run into the thousands.
Rudolf Scharping, previously Germany’s defence minister, ended official discrimination in 2000 after an officer took a legal case to Germany’s highest court having been removed from his position. Scharping stated: “Homosexuality does not constitute grounds for restrictions in terms of assignment or status.”
A constitutional amendment before the Hungarian Parliament would effectively ban LGBTQ people from adopting, drawing the ire of human rights activists.
Draft language submitted to parliament this month by Justice Minister Judit Varga states that children must be raised “in accordance with the values based on our homeland’s constitutional identity and Christian culture.”
“The basis for family relations is marriage,” it reads in part. “The mother is a woman, the father is a man.”
Under the amendment, only opposite-sex married couples would be eligible to adopt children, with exceptions made on a case-by-case basis by Minister of Family Affairs Katalin Novák. The bill effectively bans gay couples, single people and unmarried straight couples from adopting.
It also asserts that the government “protects children’s right to the gender identity they were born with.”
LGBTQ advocates view the proposals, which are expected to pass next month, as yet another assault by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s right-wing party, Fidesz, which has been in power since 2010 and maintains a two-thirds majority in Parliament.
A new constitution enacted in 2012 defines marriage exclusively as the union of a man and a woman and asserts that the traditional family is “the basis of the survival of the nation.”
Gay people “can do what they want, but they cannot get their marriages recognized by the state,” Orbán said in 2016 interview. “An apple cannot ask to be called a pear.”
In 2019, the speaker of the Hungarian National Assembly, László Kövér, compared same-sex couples wanting to adopt or marry to pedophiles. “Morally, there is no difference,” said Kövér, a founding member of Fidesz and a close ally of Orbán.
Senior party officials even called for a boycott of Coca-Cola when it launched an LGBTQ-inclusive ad campaign that summer. In May, the government reversed regulations allowing transgender and intersex citizens to change the gender listed on legal documents. The new regulations redefined the word “nem” — which in Hungarian can mean either “sex” or “gender” — to refer specifically to a person’s biological sex at birth “based on primary sex characteristics and chromosomes.”
The law puts trans and intersex people “at risk of harassment, discrimination, and even violence in daily situations when they need to use identity documents,” according to Human Rights Watch.
Another new proposal would abolish the Equal Treatment Authority, an autonomous agency tasked with investigating discrimination based on sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion and other factors.
Some responsibilities would be taken over by the commissioner for fundamental rights, Ákos Kozma, an Orbán loyalist who’s been largely silent on LGBTQ issues. ILGA-Europe, a leading European rights group, said the sole purpose of transferring control to Kozma is to “reduce the efficacy” of anti-discrimination policies.
These measures come as Hungary, like the rest of the world, is battling a deadly pandemic. Tamás Dombos, a board member for the Hatter Society, Hungary’s oldest and largest gay rights group, said the timing is strategic.
“Now the debate focuses on this issue rather than how bad the government is handling the pandemic or the changes they want to make to the electoral process,” Dombos told NBC News. “They create this noise so the opposition can’t focus on one issue.”
The ban on legal recognition of transgender people was passed just as the pandemic’s first wave hit Hungary. To date, the country of 9.8 million has reported 157,000 cases of Covid-19 and 3,380 deaths.
“The government has used the Covid-19 pandemic as a pretext to grab unlimited power and is using Parliament to rubber-stamp problematic nonpublic-health-related bills,” Human Rights Watch said in a statement Thursday.
The new amendments were presented on Nov. 10, the same day Parliament voted to extend a coronavirus-related state of emergency that Orbán had declared a week earlier.
Not only do they further stigmatize transgender people and same-sex couples raising children, Dombos said, they also make outreach to LGBTQ youth nearly impossible.
But the attacks on the LGBTQ community aren’t limited to the corridors of the Hungarian Parliament. “A Fairy Tale for Everyone,” a Hungarian children’s book with well-known tales incorporating gay people and other marginalized groups, was met with a barrage of homophobic vitriol when it was published in September. A leading Fidesz politician tore apart a copy page by page at a news conference, and a petition demanding it be removed from stores garnered more than 85,000 signatures.
“Hungarians are patient and tolerant” of homosexuality, he said. “We also tolerate provocation well, but there is a red line that cannot be crossed.”
The book’s authors, Dorottya Redai and Boldizsár Nagy, said they were disturbed by Orbán’s rhetoric. “When a prime minister says something like this … others will think they can also,” they told Time magazine.
Dombos said while he hasn’t seen physical violence, people on the street are getting more vocal. “Now you get called names. They shout, ‘Hey f—-t!’ That never happened before,” he said. “They feel encouraged now.”
Last month, Redai told Time that a large poster declaring, “Homosexual propaganda publication, which is dangerous for children, is sold here,” was draped outside a bookstore selling “A Fairy Tale for Everyone.”
Even a cosmopolitan city like Budapest, one of the first in Eastern Europe to hold a Pride march, hasn’t been immune. In August, a rainbow flag displayed outside City Hall was ripped down and thrown in the garbage.
Előd Novák, party leader of the extremist group Mi Hazánk, took credit for the vandalism, declaring that the “anti-family symbol has no place on the street.”
Budapest Mayor Gergely Karácsony had been the first to fly the symbol of the LGBTQ community on city property.
Days earlier, nationalist football fans calling themselves Aryan Greens reportedly set fire to a Pride flag outside another municipal building and replaced it with a banner for their favorite team.
The increasing homophobia has had a chilling effect on Hungary’s LGBTQ community.
“The general strategy for people is to stay in the closet,” Dombos said. “More than half aren’t out to their family, and only about 20 percent are out at work.” It has also pushed some to leave the country.
“The reasons why people emigrate are complex, but many LGBTQ people say dealing with discrimination and homophobic language day after day was an important factor,” Dombos said. “It’s quite easy to leave within the E.U. — you can go to Germany or other European countries where the jobs are better and there’s more acceptance.”
For those who stay and fight, countering a party with two-thirds majority is difficult under normal circumstances. During the pandemic, activists can’t have demonstrations, meet with politicians or even even hold in-person gatherings.
“We try to gather online, but it’s just not the same,” Dombos said.
Just days after Hungary announced the latest proposed amendments, the European Union’s executive commission announced its first formal strategy to protect the rights of LGBTQ citizens.
“We will defend the rights of LGBT people against those who have more and more appetite to attack them from an ideological point of view,” E.U. Commission Vice President Vera Jourova said Nov. 13 at a news conference. “This belongs to the authoritarian playbook, and it does not have a place in the E.U.”
The strategy proposes adding anti-gay hate crimes to the list of offenses for which the E.U. could set minimum penalties, including terrorism, drug trafficking and money laundering. It would also protect the legal status of same-sex married couples in all member states and tie funding to compliance with E.U. anti-discrimination laws.
Varga, the justice minister, condemned the strategy on Twitter, saying Hungary would “not accept any financial threats for protecting the traditional role of family and marriage.”
In any event, the guidelines aren’t binding on member countries. When dozens of Polish cities declared themselves “LGBT-free zones,”the commission could only deny small amounts of funding to a half-dozen towns.
Orbán has forged ideological ties with Poland in rejecting what he sees as an E.U. agenda. At a World War I memorial ceremony in August, Orbán called on central Europe to unite around its Christian roots.
“Western Europe has given up on a Christian Europe,” he warned, “and instead experiments with a godless cosmos, rainbow families, migration and open societies.”
So far, Hungary’s response to European Union pressure over human rights has been to veto E.U. legislation. Last week, Hungary and Poland united to veto the E.U.’s trillion-euro budget and coronavirus recovery package, because access is linked to countries’ adherence to the rule of law and European values.
Orbán previously vetoed ratification of an E.U. treaty on violence against women and an agreement to prevent discrimination against LGBTQ people.
The prime minister, according to Dombos, enjoys the political theatrics and “likes the idea that he’s shaping the E.U.”
Fidesz actually began as a progressive, youth-oriented party in the late 1980s, Dombos added, but then the political landscape changed and the party filled the vacuum in the right-wing space.
“More and more they became extreme, with statements not just about LGBT people, but about homeless people, Roma, Jews, migrants and asylum-seekers,” Dombos said. “Their strategy is to come up with an enemy, create a campaign around it and pass a law, and then tell us how they’ve rescued us from disaster.”
William Alejandro Martínez, a trans man from Honduras, stood up for his rights when military police officers stopped him in Comayagüela in May 2019 and asked to see his identity card. They questioned him about his gender identity, physically assaulted him, and threatened to arrest him. “Don’t touch me, I’m a human rights defender,” Martínez insisted. That’s when an officer pointed a rifle at him, saying “I don’t give a damn what you are.” “My life passed before my eyes,” Martínez remembered.
Ten years before Martínez stared into the barrel of a gun, Vicky Hernández, a trans woman, sex worker, and activist, was killed on the streets of San Pedro Sula. Last week, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights heard a case arguing that the Honduran government is responsible for Hernández’s loss of life.
The petitioners acting for the deceased, Cattrachas Lesbian Network and RFK Human Rights, argue the government bore direct responsibility for Hernández’s death, and that in failing to conduct an effective investigation into her killing, including whether it was motivated by anti-LGBT prejudice, Honduras violated her right to life under the American Convention on Human Rights.
The case reached the Inter-American Court because Honduras failed to comply with recommendations the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights issued in 2018. These included establishing a rights-respecting process to secure legal recognition for trans people’s gender identity, mapping violence against LGBT people and introducing a comprehensive policy to address its structural causes, and training security forces on anti-LGBT violence.
Human Rights Watch made similar recommendations in a report published today, part of our work on anti-LGBT violence and discrimination in Central America’s Northern Triangle. The report found that the Honduran government has failed to effectively address violence and entrenched discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation, leading many to seek asylum in the US. In some cases, security officers themselves are perpetrators of violence.
After William Martínez survived a second assault by military police in June 2019, he fled the country. Exile should not be the only way to escape violence. Honduras should take urgent steps to protect LGBT people from violence and discrimination.
A Hungarian government proposal to amend the constitution to restrict adoption to married couples is designed to exclude lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people and families and is an affront to common European values, Human Rights Watch said today.
The Hungarian parliament should reject it resoundingly. And the European Commission should make clear that the government’s latest slew of legal changes is not compatible in a European Union based on tolerance and nondiscrimination.
“It seems nothing will derail this government from cruelly and pointlessly targeting one of the most marginalized groups in Hungarian society, not even soaring coronavirus infections and Covid-19 related deaths,” said Lydia Gall, senior researcher in the Europe and Central Asia Division at Human Rights Watch. “Under the pretext of combatting a misguided conception of ‘gender ideology,’ the government further restricts rights and stigmatizes thousands of Hungarian citizens.”
The government presented to parliament a number of constitutional amendments on November 10, 2020, the same day parliament had voted to extend by 90 days the state of emergency Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government declared on November 3. The ruling party, Fidesz, which has a two-thirds majority in parliament, is set to vote on the proposals within weeks. If passed, it would be the 9th of constitutional amendments since the Orban government came into power for the second time in 2010.
The bill states that only married couples will be eligible to adopt children, with the minister in charge of family policies able to make exceptions on a case-by-case basis. It effectively excludes same-sex couples, single people, and unmarried different-sex couples from adopting children.
The bill includes language that stigmatizes transgender people, stating that “children have the right to their identity in line with their sex at birth” and rejecting diversity and inclusivity by mandating that children’s upbringing should be “in accordance with the values based on our homeland’s constitutional identity and Christian culture.”
The bill is the latest attack on LGBT people in Hungary. In May, the parliament, during the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, banned legal gender recognition meaning transgender and intersex people in Hungary cannot legally change their gender or sex (both called “nem” in Hungarian) assigned at birth. The restriction has serious repercussions for people’s everyday lives, Human Rights Watch said. It also follows increasingly hostile anti-LGBT statements by high-ranking public officials, including Prime Minister Orban.
In September, a Hungarian children’s book was published, with new versions of well-known fairy tales, featuring members of marginalized groups, including LGBT people, Roma, and people with disabilities. It sparked a wave of homophobic attacks, with right-wing extremist politicians publicly shredding the book. Other key government officials added their voices to the hate campaign in October, and Orban, on a radio show, commented on the book, saying that the LGBT community should “leave our children alone.”
The vice president of the EU Commission, Vera Jourova, on November 12 stated that abuse against the LGBT community “belongs to the authoritarian playbook and has no place in the EU.” The increasingly homophobic policies of populist conservative governments in Hungary and Poland are at odds with the Commission’s proposed LGBTIQ strategy and the principles of tolerance and nondiscrimination it is designed to protect, Human Rights Watch said.
Hungary’s justice minister, Judit Varga, dismissed the strategy, calling it a “seemingly limitless ideology [being] forced on Member States” and saying that Hungary would “not accept any financial threats for protecting the traditional role of family and marriage.” The Hungarian government on November 16blocked the adoption of the seven-year EU budget because the budget ties access to some EU funds to respect for the rule of law.
Earlier in the year, parliament blocked ratification of a regional treaty on violence against women. The Council of Europe Convention on Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence, known as the Istanbul Convention, has established a gold standard for inclusion, recognizing everyone’s right to live free from violence, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, or other characteristics.
The government submitted a separate bill to amend the electoral law, which would make it much harder for opposition parties to win elections. It would effectively require opposition parties to create joint party lists and run joint candidates to have any chance of winning an election.
“The Hungarian government’s latest efforts to cement intolerance and remove safeguards against the abuse of power should set off alarm bells in Brussels,” Gall said. “The EU Commission and other member states should strengthen scrutiny and use the EU’s systems and funds to increase respect for EU’s common democratic values and to protect marginalized populations.”
Almost half (46 per cent) of LGBT+ school students in England do not feel safe to be themselves at school, a study has revealed.
LGBT+ education charity Diversity Role Models released its “Pathways to LGBT+ Inclusion” report Wednesday (18 November), which quizzed 6,136 students and 5,733 adults from 90 schools, which were all “at the start” of their journey towards LGBT+ inclusion.
It found that across the board, 46 per cent of LGBT+ students would not feel safe coming out at school. Of secondary school students, this figure jumped to almost three quarters (73 per cent).
In a foreword for the report, presenter Clare Balding said: “Just let that sink in. The place you are relying upon to prepare you for the world, the place where you are supposed to get an all-round education is not currently a safe space if you are LGBT+.”
The report also highlighted a huge disparity between the experiences of LGBT+ students and what the teachers responsible for their care were willing to admit.
While 42 per cent of year five and six primary school students and 54 per cent of secondary school students said that homophobic, biphobic and transphobic language was common at their school, just 26 per cent of teachers admitted this was the case.
When this language did come up, just 67 per cent of primary school teachers and 78 per cent of secondary school teachers said they challenged it.
But, according to students, the situation is even worse. Less than a third (32 per cent) of secondary school kids said that staff challenged anti-LGBT+ language.
Balding added: “The report has discovered that parents, staff and governors tend to underestimate the occurrence of bullying compared to the pupils themselves.
“This is crucial because what adults may think and how adults may react to language will naturally be more considered and resilient. We grow stronger as we grow older but children don’t have those layers of protective experience.
“They respond and react as if stung or burnt and it’s why it is so important that we take these findings seriously and we, as adults, react quickly to protect the most vulnerable.”
Researchers spoke to “selective and non-selective schools, independent, faith schools and non-denominational schools, local-authority-maintained schools, academies, free schools and mixed- and single-gender schools” in London, the West Midlands and the South East of England, to compile the report.
Discrimination and bullying at school can have tragic consequences for LGBT+ youth, who are already at greater risk for mental health problems.
The Inter-American Court of Human Rights this week held a hearing in the case of a transgender woman who was murdered in Honduras during a 2009 coup.
Vicky Hernández was killed in the city of San Pedro Sula on June 28, 2009.
Hernández was the former director of Colectivo Unidad Color Rosa, a San Pedro Sula-based trans advocacy group, and a sex worker. Her murder took place on the same day then-President Manuel Zelaya was ousted from power.
Cattrachas, a lesbian feminist network based in the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa, in 2012 filed a complaint with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on behalf of Hernández’s family. Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights joined the case in 2015.
The commission on Dec. 7, 2018, published a ruling in favor of Hernández’s family that, among other things, recommended the Honduran government provide them with access to physical and mental health care and continue the criminal investigation into Hernández’s murder “in a diligent and effective matter within a reasonable time in order to completely clarify the events, identify all those who bear possible responsibility and impose the appropriate penalties for the human rights violations declared in this report.” The ruling also called for legal protections for trans Hondurans.
The commission in 2019 referred the case to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights after the Honduran government did not respond to the recommendations.
The Organization of American States created the Costa Rica-based court in 1979 in order to enforce provisions of the American Convention on Human Rights. Honduras is among the countries that currently recognize it.
Hernández’s murder was ‘extrajudicial execution’
Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Program Officer Kacey Mordecai on Wednesday described Hernández’s murder to the Washington Blade as an “extrajudicial execution” and noted Honduran authorities have not thoroughly investigated it. Mordecai also said authorities in the Central American country interviewed Hernández’s mother for the first time two years after her daughter’s death.
“What we’re arguing is she was a victim of an extrajudicial execution,” Mordecai told the Blade.
“There was also a curfew in force that night, so the only people that were on the street were military and police officers,” she added, referring to the coup. “So Vicky was found shot in the head the next morning, completely in public, on the street and 11 years later no one has made any headway in her case.”
Mordecai confirmed reports the Blade received from activists in Honduras who said a Cattrachas staffer was threatened after the first part of the hearing ended on Wednesday.
“Cattrachas, you have already launched your pronouncement,” said the person who threatened the Cattrachas staffer, according to Mordecai. “Are you now going to respect my religion? Are you going to respect my church? Or is it that Jesus was a woman?”
A press release the court issued on Thursday notes the person who threatened the Cattrachas staffer “lobbed insults” that “were related to the activity that she was doing in defense of the rights of transgender people.” The court also unanimously ordered the Honduran government to “immediately adopt all necessary measures” to protect Hernández’s family and Cattrachas staffers.
Honduran government representatives who participated in the hearing confirmed a member of the Honduran National Police contacted Hernández’s mother on Wednesday. The court’s protection order notes they indicated the Honduran National Police representative did not speak to Hernández’s mother “in a threatening manner.”
Violence and discrimination based on gender identity remains widespread in Honduras.
A press release that Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights issued on Monday notes at least 117 trans women have been killed in Honduras since the 2009 coup.
Bessy Ferrera, the sister of Rihanna Ferrera, a former Honduran congressional candidate who is the director of Asociación de Derechos Humanos Cozumel, a trans advocacy group, was murdered on July 8, 2019. Ferrera told the Blade in January during an interview in Tegucigalpa that Cattrachas offered to pay for her sister’s funeral because her relatives didn’t “want to bury a faggot in front of all my relatives.”
Ferrera told the Blade that Roxsana Hernández, a trans Honduran woman with HIV who died in a New Mexico hospital in 2018 while in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody, left the country, in part, because she wanted access to better antiretroviral drugs. Claudia Spellman, a trans Honduran woman and activist who testified on Wednesday during the Inter-American Court of Human Rights hearing, fled to the U.S. after she received death threats.
Mordecai noted to the Blade the case contains the same demands the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights complaint had.
Cattrachas and Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights have demanded Honduran law enforcement officials undergo training “about the threats and risks LGBTQI individuals face.” The complaint also calls for the Honduran government to open a center in San Pedro Sula that will offer health care, HIV testing, legal representation, job training and other services to the city’s LGBTQ community.
“We’re talking about a death that happened in 2009, but in 2020 we’re finding a lot of the same themes,” Mordecai told the Blade.
A lesbian couple in India were allegedly forced apart by their families, who barged into their home and publicly beat one of them in front of their village.
The two women, who are both adults, were living happily in the Baghpat area of Uttar Pradesh in Northern India. On Sunday (8 November) the relatives of one of the women burst into their house and forcibly separated the pair, Times Now reports.
When one woman attempted to resist she was humiliated and beaten in the street, in full view of bystanders who filmed the scene and circulated the footage on social media.
She told local news that she and her partner had made a conscious decision to live together, and that they wanted to work in the field of education but were facing continuous resistance from their families over their relationship.
The lesbian couple had already notified the police of their situation and appealed for safety, she added, but the family took matters into their own hands.
“We had given a written complaint to the police to provide us protection,” she told The Times of India. “But before they could, Shreya’s [name changed] relatives came here and thrashed me publicly and even tore my clothes. And they took her away.”
A senior police official said that the authorities are looking into the matter.
Homosexual relations were decriminalised in India in 2018, but LGBT+ people still face an enormous amount of stigma, particularly in rural areas.
With same-sex marriage remaining a distant hope for queer Indians, some couples are legitimising their relationships by entering into a maitri karar, a type of “friendship contract”.
The couple were forced to file a high court lawsuit to gain protection when their plea for safety was ignored by police. The courts finally granted a protection order in August, giving the women the right to live together in peace.
The EU has unveiled its first ever plan to tackle LGBT+ discrimination following increasing calls for action over the rise of homophobic rhetoric in Poland.
The European Commission’s unprecedented five-year strategy details a number of targeted actions, including legal and funding measures, aimed at addressing the inequalities still faced by LGBT+ Europeans.×
It includes plans to extend the list of EU crimes to cover homophobic hate speech, ensure that LGBT+ concerns are better reflected in policy-making, and propose new laws to guarantee same-sex parenthood will be recognised across the 27 member nations.
“This is not about ideology. This is not about being men or women. This is about love,” said commission vice-president Vera Jourova. “This strategy is not against anyone. This does not put anyone on a pedestal. But it is about guaranteeing safety and non-discrimination for everyone.”
The commission said some progress is being made toward equality, but acknowledged a 2019 European Fundamental Rights survey that found 43 per cent of LGBT+ people still feel discriminated against, compared to 37 per cent in 2012.
Coronavirus lockdowns are thought to be worsening the situation by forcing some young people to remain in places where they might face violence, hostility and bullying or suffer anxiety or depression.
Although the strategy doesn’t specifically mention Poland, commissioner for equality Helena Dalli made clear that the country’s extreme anti-LGBT+ policies are in direct opposition to the EU’s “core values”.
“Today, the EU asserts itself, as the example to follow, in the fight for diversity and inclusion,” she declared in a statement on Thursday (12 November)
“Equality and non-discrimination are core values and fundamental rights in the European Union. This means that everybody in the European Union should feel safe and free without fear of discrimination or violence on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression or sex characteristics.
“We are still a long way away from the full inclusion and acceptance that LGBTIQ people deserve,” she admitted.
Member countries that don’t have equality strategies were prompted to adopt one suited to the needs of their citizens, with the reminder that the commission will be monitoring their progress and reviewing the situation in 2023.
LGBT+ asylum seekers are often subjected to bias and derogatory remarks from interpreters, a report has warned.
The report from the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, published on Wednesday (November 11), flagged concerns about the way people seeking asylum on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity are treated during Home Office processes.
According to the report, stakeholders had raised concerns that “interpreter bias” has a large impact on applications among LGBT+ asylum claimants.
It warns: “One [stakeholder] argued that this was particularly prevalent in LGBTQI+ claims, with applicants reporting interpreters using derogatory slang and making judgements, which impacted the confidence of applicants.
“Another referred to reports from LGBTQI+ applicants about interpreters ‘mistranslating, rebuking or judging people, or being dismissive of their fears such as the death penalty’.
“There were concerns that applicants could feel inhibited about talking about their claim which could affect the decision.”
According to the report, the Home Office’s Asylum Operations unit had “confirmed stakeholders’ concerns, commenting that with some LGBTQI+ claims they could ‘feel the tension’ between the applicant and interpreter.”
While some Home Office decision makers were aware that some interpreters were “fairly old guys who have their views”, the report says that they concluded they should “try and ignore it” and not “cause trouble”.
The report continues: “In some instances, applicants expressed discomfort about disclosing LGBTQI+ issues to interpreters from the same culture and some decision makers had witnessed applicants’ discomfort because the interpreter… simply summarised the applicant’s words rather that interpreting them verbatim.
“Applicants also raised this issue, saying that the bias stemmed from the interpreters’ religious beliefs.”
With interpreters often their only way of communicating with Home Office staff, LGBT+ asylum seekers who experience problems have few ways to make their concerns heard.
The report recommends the Home Office should give an official within the Borders, Immigration and Citizenship System ownership of language services, and should “publish and resource a comprehensive programme of improvements to the provision and use of language services, with clear timelines and deliverables.”
However, they told local radio station NEWS 95.7: “I’m happy that I’m able to share my story, but I would hope that MSI, moving forward, would be more proactive in changing and supporting trans individuals so it’s not a matter of people having to go through this process to human rights complaints to make sure that they are getting the support that they need.”
Community legal worker Mark Culligan told CBC that the change was a “real milestone”, and said: “The previous coverage was based on the understanding that transitioning happens from male to female, from female to male, and what was unique about Sebastian’s case was that they were asking for a surgery that more accurately reflected their identity as a non-binary individual.”
At the time, Patricia Arab, the minister of internal services, said: “A priority for our government is making sure we are as inclusive and diverse as possible, and making sure all our residents feel safe and that they have a place here.
“This isn’t the last step in the conversation but it’s certainly a significant move to make sure that we have a safe and inclusive community here in our province.”