Sexual & Gender Minorities

Lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people are among the most persecuted individuals in the world today. Seventy-eight nations criminalize same-sex relations. Seven of these apply the death penalty for consensual same-sex conduct. In many more countries, sexual and gender minorities (SGMs) regularly face harassment, arrest, interrogation, torture and beatings.

These human rights violations propel thousands to flee their countries. Yet without focused attention and assistance from the international humanitarian community, these refugees continue to be deprived of basic safety or protection. The lucky few who manage to escape often find that conditions in their countries of transit are not much better than those they fled.

SGMs are often targeted for violence by authorities or civilians whom the authorities cannot or will not stop.  In some places, the situation is so severe that these refugees fear going outside in daylight. Virtually none “come out” in their countries of transit, and most never seek protection on account of their sexual orientation.

SGM refugees, as forced migrants and sexual minorities, are “doubly marginalized.” Moreover, the scant survival mechanisms normally available to other refugees are often closed off to them. While most refugees seek safety and comfort with their own countrypersons, SGM refugees are often targeted by their compatriots or families.  Very few manage to survive these obstacles and reach safety.

Assistance is urgently needed to save SGM refugees in their countries of first asylum and to assist the lucky few who manage to reach safety.

ORAM works resolutely to break down systemic barriers to their safety and shelter. ORAM lays the groundwork for global changes by researching and documenting the extreme abuses these refugees face, and then translates its highly regarded expertise into essential advocacy and education.

These efforts have borne — and continue to bear — tangible fruit such as:

  • Suspension of a physically invasive practice (phallometry) previously used to help determine refugee status for gay men, but forcefully discredited by ORAM in a special report,
  • Faster consideration of LGBTIs applying for refugee status,
  • A training and interviewing tool to guide adjudicators in objectively assessing the credibility and eligibility of LGBTI refugee and asylum claims,
  • A 100-country global survey of NGO attitudes about LGBTI refugees and asylum seekers, which spotlighted gaping holes in their protection and pointed the way for corrective actions,
  • The first community guide for helping LGBTI refugees and asylees integrate into new communities where they’ve historically lacked the safety nets other refugees can rely upon.