Various municipalities organize information meetings in refugee centres to increase the acceptance of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people (LGBT) among refugees. ‘It is important that municipalities think carefully about how to organize information for asylum seekers. Interventions may not work at all or even backfire. The group's attitude towards LGBTs then will become more negative instead of more positive.’
This is the conclusion reached by researcher Hanneke Felten of the Netherlands Centre for Social Development Movision. She examined what we know about what might work to increase the acceptance of LGBTs among refugees. She looked at more than a hundred studies of how working on LGBT acceptance can have the desired effect: a positive attitude towards and respectful treatment of any person, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
The results were published in the Movision report “Rainbows & Refugees; verkennend onderzoek naar wat werkt bij het vergroten van de acceptatie van LHBT onder vluchtelingen”. (Exploratory research on what works to increase LGBT acceptance among refugees).
The study is based on two pillars: scientific empirical literature, and tips from professionals and experts gathered at an expert meeting.
Various methods are discussed in the report. What works partly depends on the target group. Felten: ‘For a group that only has unconscious prejudices, one chooses a different approach in comparison with the group that also consciously rejects LGBTs. As most of the refugees come from countries where homosexuality is still criminalized, it is likely that most of them belong to the last group.'
Meeting an LGBT
One of the methods that is most likely to succeed is meeting with an LGBT who tells his or her story what it is like to be LGBT. But such a meeting needs to take place in the right circumstances. Felten: ‘It is, for instance, important that the LGBT tells his or her story to refugees in a relaxed setting. The story also needs to fit in with the perception of the audience and evoke empathy for LGBTs. For example, someone who is Muslim and gay can increase empathy among heterosexual Muslim refugees by telling his story. This empathy can increase their acceptance of homosexuality.'
Films and Theatre
Media can also contribute to such a positive image. Felten: ‘Showing a friendship between an LGBT and a non-LGBT in a movie or TV show can lead by example, and make LGBTs less threatening. Especially for people who are sensitive to group values and people from group cultures this can be a promising method. Similarly, a play in which a refugee shows how someone like himself associates with LGBTs.'
What does not work is just having a conversation
In “Rainbows & Refugees” the do’s and don’ts in education and information are listed. The latter category for example includes an open discussion group at a refugee centre in which negative opinions are also shared. They increase the chance of increased negative attitudes towards LGBT instead of making these attitudes more positive. Felten: ‘The period of just talking about it is in the past in the Netherlands. It is really about increasing the acceptance of LGBTs. Municipalities would be advised to look at what kind of intervention they use, and in what situation.’
Lesbian women, homosexual men, bisexuals and transgender people (LGBTs) may face discrimination and violence simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The Dutch government has been implementing LGBT emancipatory policies for a long time. This policy is aimed at all residents of the Netherlands: from those who have lived here generation on generation, and those who have recently arrived. Schools have to include sexual diversity education for all students. Minister Bussemakers of Education is of the opinion that refugees should also be taught about LGBTs. Several municipalities are organising information sessions for refugees in refugee centres and emergency shelters.