Skip to main content

Sexual orientation, gender identity and asylum: Australian and global perspectives

12 December 2019
6.00pm – 7.30pm AEDT
Baker McKenzie, Tower One, Level 46, 100 Barangaroo Avenue, Sydney
This event has ended
Sexual orientation, gender identity and asylum: Australian and global perspectives

Despite landmark legal changes in Australia and elsewhere recognising equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) people, many countries continue to criminalise and demonise the everyday lives of LGBTIQ people. In at least six United Nations member States, consensual same-sex activity between adults is punishable by death, and violence and persecution of LGBTIQ people is rife in many more countries. Claiming asylum in a Western liberal democracy on the basis of sexual orientation and/or gender identity can be fraught. 

Fifteen years ago, members of Australia’s High Court slammed refugee decision-makers for asking an applicant about Madonna, Bette Midler and Greco-Roman wrestling during a protection hearing. Surely things have changed?  

What are the challenges for an LGBTIQ person seeking asylum today? Does the Australian refugee system ensure protection for LGBTIQ people seeking asylum in Australia, and how does it compare with other refugee-receiving countries? 

These issues were explored at a special panel event offering Australian and global perspectives on refugee protection for LGBTIQ people. 

Download the transcript.

About the speakers

Sarah Dale is Centre Director and Principal Solicitor of the Refugee Advice and Casework Service (RACS). Sarah joined RACS in 2013, assisting unaccompanied children seeking asylum throughout Australia, including those detained on Christmas Island, and those transferred to Nauru. She became Principal Solicitor in 2016, leading the provision of vital legal assistance to people seeing asylum in NSW. She has been instrumental in assisting people held in offshore detention access critical medical attention. In 2018, Sarah was awarded Migration Partner of the Year by Lawyers Weekly.

Minoo Eslami is a PhD candidate in Materials Science and Engineering at UNSW and a member of the Iranian lesbian and transgender network 6rang. As an activist in exile, she advocates from abroad for the rights of LGBTIQ people in Iran, contributing to international accountability processes such as the Universal Periodic Review. Her activism has included work on women’s rights, child labour, and the protection of refugees and people seeking asylum.

Ghassan Kassisieh is the Legal Director at Equality Australia, a lawyer and the author of the 2008 From Lives of Fear to Lives of Freedom report, analysing Australian refugee decisions on the basis of sexual orientation. The report, which is currently being updated with learnings from a decade of new decisions, has been widely cited in academic literature and has helped contribute to UNHCR Guidelines. Previously, Ghassan was a civil litigation lawyer at Gilbert + Tobin in Sydney and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer in London, and the Policy and Development Coordinator at the NSW Gay & Lesbian Rights Lobby.  He is currently a teaching fellow in public law at UNSW.

Dr Reuven (Ruvi) Ziegler is Associate Professor in International Refugee Law at the University of Reading, School of Law, where he is the Director of Postgraduate Taught Programmes. He is a Research Associate of the Refugee Studies Centre, University of Oxford; Co-convenor of the Migration and Asylum Section of the Society of Legal Scholars; Associate Academic Fellow of the Honourable Society of the Inner Temple; Senior Research Associate of the Refugee Law Initiative (Institute for Advance Legal Study, University of London) and Editor-in-Chief of its Working Paper Series. He is the author of Voting Rights of Refugees (Cambridge University Press, 2017). Ruvi holds DPhil, MPhil, and BCL degrees from the University of Oxford.

The Kaldor Centre wishes to thank Baker McKenzie for generously hosting this event.