A commentary and resource on Law and Sexuality by Professor Chris Ashford and guests
Queering Asylum Anxieties: Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Refugee Claims
Over the last three decades, an increasing number of Anglophone courts have recognised asylum claims on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Such jurisprudence has been heralded for “progressing” LGBTI rights. Yet, the progressive promise of these “pro-LGBTI” decisions leaves much more to be desired. Often formulated under the rubric of a “particular social group,” the extent to which queer refugees have been granted protection has been contingent on whether they subscribe to normative ideas of intimacy, identity, and injury. Specifically, queer refugees must demonstrate they have a “well-founded fear of persecution” by subscribing to ethnocentric assumptions about sexual citizenship, gender expression, erotic relationships, and state violence. While the concept of fear has been central to the grant of asylum under international law, it has also been mobilised in legal, political, and academic responses to the adjudication of such claims. Specifically, the fear about having a refugee jurisprudence that is too queer has led to states attempting to curb opening the proverbial “floodgates.” This anxious attempt at control has been painfully fleshed out in the way courts navigate the nexus between “authenticating” immutable sexual or gender identities and “counting” what amounts to sustained state persecution. Drawing on appellate case law from Australia, the UK, and the EU, my paper will disturb how fear stifles the recognition of queer intimacy and injury. By disrupting judicial gestures, I will consider how “asylum anxieties” continue to undermine queer claims for protection.
Bio: Senthorun Raj
Senthorun Raj is an academic and advocate with a passion for popular culture, social justice, and law. Sen is currently completing his PhD and teaches at the Sydney Law School. His doctoral thesis titled “Feeling Law: Intimacy, Violence, and Queer Subjects” examines the way emotion has shaped legal responses that address the discrimination perpetrated against sexual and gender minorities.
Sen is a contributing writer for The Guardian. He has published numerous articles and academic papers on topics ranging from refugee law to social networking. Sen is also an advisory board member of the sexuality, gender and diversity studies journal Writing from Below and has been a guest editor at the lifestyle website SameSame.
In a governance capacity, Sen serves on the boards of Amnesty International Australia and ACON Health.
Sen is a former Churchill Fellow who completed a comparative research project on the advocacy and adjudication of sexual orientation and gender identity based asylum claims in the US, UK, and Australia. He has also worked as the Senior Policy Advisor for the NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby.