(In)Visible and (im)Mobile : Lesbians, Exile and Global LGBT and Womens' Rights Movements. CANCELLED

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 4:45 PM
Room: 501
Bronwyn WINTER , French Studies, The University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia
In a world that is supposedly more and more mobile and in which globalised LGBT rights claims are now firmly on the UN and many national agendas, lesbians often remain, paradoxically, invisibilised and immobilised—but to varying degrees. This paper will consider this paradox with reference to the issue of political asylum.

On one hand, social movements campaigning nationally, transnationally and internationally for both women’s and LGBT human rights have facilitated access to asylum, mostly in Western countries, for lesbians from the many countries where homosexuality remains illegal (76 countries), or where the state fails to protect homosexuals from abuse, despite decriminalisation (another 60-70 countries). The European Union, for example, now explicitly includes references to the specificities of LGBT experience and needs in its new standardised asylum procedure.

On the other hand, continued cultural taboos and in some cases political backlash have, in many countries, maintained or even exacerbated the isolation of lesbians, depriving them of easy access to global LGBT rights networks (including the very important online networks that have proliferated over the last decade, but which frequently continue to privilege gay men). Moreover, the significantly lower levels of financial and cultural autonomy for women in many countries have meant that access to escape routes is much more limited than for men—a problem that lesbians share with heterosexual women but can be even worse in their case. Yet, access of lesbians to asylum presents as one of the world’s most urgent human rights issues, as almost without exception, lesbians seeking asylum have suffered multiple forms of physical and psychological torture.

The paper will discuss the above issues with reference to the importance of transnational social movement activism and support that specifically addresses the situation of lesbians, as well as to case studies from France in particular.