In some parts of the world it’s still dangerous to come out of the closet

CIC News
Published: June 1, 2006

Toronto Pride Week's theme "fearless in 2006", serves as a reminder to some Canadian refugees that in many parts of the world, being gay means the difference between life and death.

Canada inarguably has one of the world's most progressive positions on civil liberties and it, along with a handful of other nations (Belgium, the Netherlands and Spain), sets the “gold standard” for gay rights across the globe. known internationally for having one of the fairest refugee determination systems, Canada's reputation on accepting lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgendered asylum seekers is quite noteworthy.

In 1992, Canada was one of the first countries to expand its definition of the United Nations Convention relating to the status of refugees to include sexual orientation as a recognized form of state-sanctioned oppression. In fact, the International Lesbian and Gay Association, which tracks intolerance around the world, says that sex between women is illegal in 51 nations, while sex between men is illegal in 76.

To win a positive determination on a refugee case, a Canadian immigration lawyer is charged with establishing two core facts: their client's sexual orientation and that there is a risk of persecution in their client's country of origin. However, proving homosexuality can be difficult and it so often comes down to the refugee determination officer's intuition. Some gay refugees even come here by way of the United States. In the US, unlike Canada, one cannot sponsor one's same-sex partner for immigration, and it is much harder to prove a refugee case based on sexual orientation.

Many countries around the world continue to condemn homosexuals. "Gay men are tortured routinely," says Arsham Parsi, who fled to Canada to escape his government's persecution. Parsi sought refugee status in Canada when he learned, through friends, that government officials back home were actively seeking him out. In his native country, homosexuality is illegal and punishable by death he remarks. "The judge has four choices [...] "You can be hanged, stoned to death, beheaded or pushed from a precipice.

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