When LGBT People Face Forced Migration or Torture, What is the Role of Psychology?
What psychologists should know about the global climate for LGBT people and improvements in public policy.
A Mixed Context Globally
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people and their concerns have become increasingly visible around the world. As awareness grows, and as more people come out by choice or are outed by others, reactions to these populations play out in ways both favorable and appalling.
Among the favorable developments, including an uptick in affirming LGBT- related public policy in some countries, is the increase in the past few years of international, national and regional psychological organizations formally adopting LGBT affirmative policies and using scientific knowledge to inform their statements against discrimination and sexual orientation change effort, and for affirmative practices with clients.
As the United Nations and other international human rights and health bodies have moved toward a conceptualization of LGBT people being entitled to human rights and health and have made formal statements (PDF, 706KB) against having human rights dismissed or violated because of LGBT status, there has been significant pushback from some nations insisting "traditional values" that have long suppressed women and sexual and gender minorities should be the legitimate basis for what are recognized as human rights.
It is in this mixed context that other social and political crises play out that may affect entire populations and where LGBT people may face heightened vulnerability for scapegoating and persecution. It is also in this context that LGBT discrimination and criminalization may be state policy. These conditions for any combination of reasons may lead to forced migrations, to people enduring torture or being murdered because of their LGBT status (whether real or perceived), and to people fleeing homes, communities and countries to save their own lives.
Role of Psychology
In response to the human impact of all of this there is a growing literature on how to work with and protect the individuals affected. There is also increasing attention to training for graduate students, forensic psychologists and other scientists, and clinicians, on working with displaced, escaping or physically and psychologically victimized LGBT people.
This page represents an effort to highlight the literature and opportunities for training, practice, and research pertinent to psychologists in particular. It also represents an effort to help educate professionals already involved in other arenas of this work, as well as a more general public, to recognize and better understand psychology's role.
Analysis: The plight of LGBTI asylum seekers, refugees
Humanitarian News and Analysis, The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Guidance for adjudication Lesbian Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) Refugee and Asylum Claims (PDF, 371KB)
Refugee, Asylum, and International Operation Directorate of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
International Protection for Refugees
- International Protection for a Newly Surfacing Refugee Community
Kelsey Lundgren Migration Information Source, Migration Policy Institute
- Un/Convention(al) Refugees: Contextualizing the Accounts of Refugees Facing Homophobic or Transphobic Persecution
Sharalyn R. Jordan, Refuge
No. 2, 2009
- United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
The United Nations Refugee Agency
- Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS)
Invisible in the City: Protection Gaps Facing Sexual Minority Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Urban Ecuador, Ghana, Israel and Kenya (PDF,3.38MB)
This report is the result of a one-year qualitative and quantitative research project conducted by HIAS on sexual minority refugees in the urban centers of Ecuador, Ghana, Israel and Kenya. During the course of the research, interviews were conducted with sexual minority refugees, refugee protection professionals and sexual minority civil society organizations.
- Blind Alleys: The Unseen Struggles of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex Urban Refugees in Mexico, Uganda and South Africa
Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
Born Free and Equal
United Nations Human Rights Office publication on sexual orientation and gender identity in international human rights law.
Forced Migration Review
Special Edition: Sexual orientation and gender identity and the protection of forced migrants
Around the world, people face abuse, arbitrary arrest, extortion, violence, severe discrimination and lack of official protection because of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. This latest issue of FMR includes 26 articles on the abuse of rights of forced migrants who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex. Authors discuss both the challenges faced and examples of good practice in securing protection for LGBTI forced migrants.
Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
A compendium of documents related to sexual orientation and gender identity, including legal, policy and background information.
Mental Health Challenges
Mental health challenges of LGBT forced migrants
Ariel Shidlo and Joanne Ahola
Many LGBT forced migrants have significant and sometimes incapacitating psychological scars. Mental health providers can assist in documenting the psychological impact of anti-LGBT persecution and its impact on the ability to secure refugee status.
Torture and Treatment of Prisoners
Basic Principles for the Treatment of Prisoners
Adopted by the United Nations General Assembly as Resolution 45/111, Dec. 14, 1990.
Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
Adopted by the United Nations General Assembly as Resolution 39/46, Dec. 10, 1984.
Principles of Medical Ethics relevant to the Role of Health Personnel, particularly Physicians, in the Protection of Prisoners and Detainees against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhumane or Degrading Treatement of Punishment
United Nations General Assembly as Resolution 37/194 on Dec. 18, 1982.
The Protocols additional to the Geneva Conventions of Aug. 12, 1949
Adopted on June 8, 1977, by the Diplomatic Conference on the Reaffirmation and Development of International Humanitarian Law applicable in Armed Conflicts.
WMA Declaration of Tokyo — Guidelines for Physicians Concerning Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in Relation to Detention and Imprisonment
Adopted by the 29th World Medical Assembly, Tokyo, Japan, October 1975 and editorially revised by the 170th WMA Council Session, Divonne-les-Bains, France, May 2005 and the 173rd WMA Council Session, Divonne-les-Bains, France, May 2006.
Dignity Denied: LGBT Immigrants in U.S. Immigration Detention
Center for American Progress, By Sharita Gruberg
Resources for Torture Survivors, Refugees & Asylum-Seekers
Compiled by Kenneth S. Pope, providing links to over 130 online resources for torture victims, asylum-seekers and refugees.