Gay Asylum Seekers Asked ‘Inappropriate’ Sexual Questions By Australian Official


depressed young man mental health depression anxiety

A gay Bangladeshi couple seeking asylum in Australia were asked highly personal questions about their sex life by a government official, including whether they swallowed each other’s semen, according to documents released under Freedom of Information.

The Bangladeshi men (not pictured), who were seeking protection in Australia on the basis that they were a gay couple, were asked the questions in interviews with a government case officer in 2012, Buzzfeed reported.

Advertisements

In one interview, one of the men, called Applicant A, was asked about when and where he had last had sex with his boyfriend, referred to as Applicant B.

“Was it all over within minutes? Or a longer period? 30 minutes to one hour,” Applicant A was asked.

The officer pressed the man further, asking, “So you gave him oral sex. Did he ejaculate? … Did he reach a climax? Did he come? And roughly how long did that take?”

The officer later asked Applicant B about a “sexual incident” between them that prompted Applicant B to go to a clinic.

“I believe he said that um you ejaculated into his mouth,” the officer said.

“What was the concern? What prompted you to go there?

“Why was drinking his cum a problem? So you don’t normally do that? You’ve only done that once?”

The officer subsequently rejected the two men’s application for protection visas but in 2014 the Refugee Review Tribunal overturned the decision, writing in its ruling that the questions the official asked were “very intimate” and “intrusive”.

A Department of Home Affairs spokesperson told Buzzfeed they acknowledged some of the official’s questioning was “inappropriate and insensitive”. The department said the case officer concerned was later “counselled about their conduct.”

The spokesperson said such questioning would not be used today and since 2012 the department “has significantly strengthened its guidelines, and provided additional training, on assessing LGBTI claims and conducting applicant interviews in a sensitive manner.”

Advertisements

Equality Australia CEO Anna Brown told BuzzFeed that “this level of sexually explicit questioning is shockingly inappropriate, particularly given the applicants have a history of trauma and persecution based on their sexual orientation.”

“Comparable jurisdictions, such as the European Union, have banned questioning of this kind because it violates the applicant’s rights to privacy and human dignity,” Brown said.

Brown said there are numerous examples of “inappropriate sexually explicit and stereotypical lines of questioning” in Australian tribunals and courts.

“Ridiculously, there have been instances where gay people have been tested on their knowledge of Oscar Wilde or particular gay nightclubs on Oxford Street, and applicants have felt compelled to produce footage of sexual encounters to prove their claim,” she said.

Brown said officials should focus instead on applicants’ “self-identification and exploring their personal narrative about the realisation and experience of their identity, including feelings of difference, stigma and internalised shame, and the fear of harm in their country of origin.”

Section 377 of Bangladesh’s penal code prohibits “carnal intercourse against the order of nature” which is interpreted as criminalising consensual sex between males.

Amnesty International states that it is unsafe for homosexual people to publicly reveal their sexual orientation in Bangladesh, with openly lesbian, gay and bisexual people encountering extensive prejudice and stigma, discrimination in education and employment, and violence in the country.

Difficulties proving their sexuality

Australia’s Migration Act allows consideration of sexuality in determining the risk of persecution in an asylum seeker’s home country, but asylum seekers must produce evidence for their individual cases.

In 2017, the Sydney Morning Herald reported on the the difficulties refugees can face in “proving” their sexuality.

Poor English, limited finances and ongoing struggles with their sexuality can mean LGBTIQ refugees have little involvement with gay organisations or nightlife in Australia, but face rejection by the tribunal without that kind of evidence.

Some applicants even resort to offering videos or images of themselves having sex to support their case.

A former Tribunal member who spoke anonymously at the time said the use of gay stereotypes in asylum applications was dangerous because of a lack of safeguards to protect people from bad decisions, except an appeal to the Federal Court.

“There are no checks or curbs on these assumptions, with members given free rein to indulge whatever personal views they may hold when making decisions that can mean life and death in the most extreme cases,” he said.

(Top photo by Lesterman/Adobe Stock)