chapter  6
19 Pages

Lesbians and United Kingdom asylum law: evidence and existence

WithCLAIRE BENNETT

This chapter explores how lesbian asylum seekers understood the United Kingdom asylum process and how they believed navigating this legal procedure impacted upon their social and sexual identity. This question is particularly pertinent, as whilst there has been much needed debate on the evolving legal interpretation and application of refugee law, there remains limited academic discussion on how women themselves reflect on this process. In this research I prioritized the views of lesbian asylum seekers because sexuality and law is an area of increasing academic examination, yet few studies have engaged with lesbians and discussed the impact of having one’s sexual identity publicly judged and evidenced. This chapter contextualizes women’s narratives within current debates on the forced migration of homosexuals and developments in the field of sexuality and law, including recent asylum determinations and policy changes. I then focus upon women’s direct testimonies of seeking asylum, paying particular attention to the legal requirement to provide evidence of abuse and sexual orientation. By drawing on women’s reflections of narrating their intimate lives in the screening and substantive interviews, as well as court appearances, I discuss how difficult and challenging this experience is. Moreover, I place women’s narratives of evidencing their sexuality alongside sociological discussions to demonstrate how legal assessments contradict current sociological thought on sexuality. Finally, I demonstrate how women internalized narrating traumatic events, having their personal accounts publicly scrutinized, and being perceived as ‘not credible’. By using my empirical data, I will argue that the asylum process may, for some applicants, constitute a form of re-traumatization and thus complicate their process of recovery and social inclusion.