Public Seminar Series, Hilary term 2014. Seminar by S. Chelvan (No5 Chambers) recorded on 22 January 2014 at the Oxford Department of International Development, University of Oxford.
Following the heralded 2010 landmark judgment of the UK Supreme Court in HJ (Iran) and HT (Cameroon), the LGBTI refugee has faced a culture of disbelief, which has led in some instances to filming, or photographing of sexual acts, to ‘prove’ identity. Analysing his DSSH (Difference, Stigma, Shame and Harm) model, endorsed by UNHCR, and adopted by both New Zealand and Sweden, Mr Chelvan tackles directly the main hurdle facing LGBTI refugees, ie, proving refugee status based on actual, or perceived sexual or gender identity, within a humane investigatory framework. Mr Chelvan then shifts the focus of status determination away from the victim, to the persecutor in the country of origin, as this provides the source of the refugee claim. Through the prism of identification of the victim due to their lack of conformity with a heteronormative stereotype, this leads to persecution, and motivates migration. The Supreme Court in providing guidelines – which still enable claims to fail on the basis of discretion – fails to engage with this point, highlighting the urgent need to focus on perception as the primary factor in LGBTI refugee claims.