The Bi-Alliance Victoria (BAV) was very happy to be invited to comment on the UNHCR’s discussion paper on “The Protection of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trangender and Intersex Asylum-Seekers and Refugees“. The Centre for Refugee Research at UNSW sought comment from BAV as they are conducting a research study on Australia’s response to UNHCR’s Summary Conclusions: Asylum Seekers and Refugees Seeking Protection on Account of their Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.
The BAV was approached as a relevant stakeholder in Australia to discuss bisexuality. The results will be published in a report which will be presented at the 2011 Refugee Conference at UNSW in June 2011 and be used to inform advocacy, of UNHCR and the Australian government, to improve the protection of LGBTI asylum-seekers and refugees. At the completion of the study, a copy of the report will be sent to participants for their signed approval, prior to its publication.
BAV’s Vice President, Rebecca Dominguez, discussed the research paper with a representative for the Centre for Refugee Research at UNSW. She discussed how UNHCR’s paper was a good start, but lacked significant findings into the difficulties of bisexual individuals. As an example she noted that the paper briefly discussed issues for lesbians – in that they often faced lower socioeconomic status, were at greater risk of violence, and often are unable to access State Protection due to domestic violence not necessarily being a crime in their home country or country of first asylum. However, similar findings were not made for bisexual women or women who had sex with women and men (WSWM).
Rebecca agreed that refugee decision makers needed training and an understanding of bisexuality given that bisexuals make up a majority of the LGBTI community. She told the representative that biphobia and bi-invisibility is a big issue for bisexuals given how many people perceive sexual orientation as binary – either straight or gay. Rebecca forwarded a copy of the “Bisexual Invisibility: Impacts and Recommendations” report to the representative for further reading.
When asked if Australia could take a leadership role in promoting UNHCR’s paper on processing LGBTI individuals, Rebecca agreed stating that Australia is working towards equality for LGBTI individuals and therefore has some experience in working to improve the rights of a marginalised group which could be used on the world stage.
BAV are happy to have their views sought on this important issue, but are aware that for the most part we are a group of middle-class, white people and have not experienced the persecution and discrimination that results in someone fleeing their country.