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November 11, 2009
Worldfocus Radio: LGBT politics and gay asylum

Martin Savidge hosts David Rayside and Rachel Tiven on LGBT politics and gay asylum. We begin the conversation with Jamaica, which makes up 17 of the 55 U.S. asylum cases won by Immigration Equality last year alone. We examine the metastasizing colonial and slave culture, entrenched poverty and rampant violence in Jamaica.

In 1994, former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno expanded asylum law to include persecution based on sexual orientation. Sexual orientation has been increasingly used as grounds for asylum. We also discuss how to begin the process of applying for gay asylum in the U.S.

From human rights abuses to political progress, the gay rights movement is at different stages throughout the world. We take a comparative look at the progress of LGBT politics and the gay rights movement in different countries, including the best and worst places to be gay.

A Greek gay rights parade. Photo: Megan Thompson


David Rayside is a political science professor at the University of Toronto. His latest book “Queer Inclusions, Continental Divisions” is a comparative analysis of Canadian and  American political recognition of same-sex relationships, the extension of parenting rights to same-sex couples and the response to sexual diversity in public schooling. For over thirty years, he has also been an activist on issues related to sexual diversity and gender within academic institutions and beyond.

Rachel B. Tiven is the executive director of Immigration Equality, a national organization fighting for equal immigration rights for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and HIV-positive community. Under her leadership, Immigration Equality has doubled in size, quadrupled client services and opened a policy office in Washington, D.C.

Host: Martin Savidge
Producers: Lisa Biagiotti and Ben Piven
Researcher: Geneva Sands-Sadowitz

For more information on homophobia and HIV in Jamaica, visit The Glass Closet, a multimedia project produced in partnership with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.




[…] Worldfocus Radio takes a comparative look at the progress of LGBT politics and the gay rights movement in different countries and explores the U.S. and Canada as safe havens for gay asylum seekers. Martin Savidge hosts David Rayside and Rachel Tiven on Worldfocus Radio on Thursday, Nov. 12 at 2 p.m. EST. Read more at […]


As I see it:
No troops to Afghanistan


[…] and author of Queer Inclusions, Continental Divisions. For more information on tuning in, go here. Comments […]


I thought you might appreciate knowing about a refugee advocacy organization with a focus on LGBTs: ORAM – Organization for Refuge, Asylum & Migration. ORAM’s mission is to advocate for refugees fleeing sexual or gender based violence.

Among our projects, ORAM is currently providing legal representation to LGBT refugees in Turkey in proceedings before the UNHCR. Our caseload comprises all known LGBT refugees and asylum-seekers in Turkey. (The vast majority of these are Iranians fleeing execution or other severe punishment.) In July we published the first-ever report ( to expose the dire conditions these LGBT refugees face. Our report was sourced in October by the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights (

Alongside direct client representation, ORAM also conducts public education and advocacy in the US and internationally. Specifically, we aim for the State Department to make available a modest number of slots for resettling those who were rendered refugees due to their gender identity and/or sexual orientation.

We are also piloting a groundbreaking new program entitled “refugee community empowerment.” Many of our LGBT refugee clients suffer from post-traumatic-stress-syndrome and have difficulty working (or even staying safe). We are lifting their self-esteem and giving them a sense of purpose by having them take an active role in community information and organization, as well as in moving along their own cases. Several clients are serving as direct ORAM volunteers, and assisting other clients with the application process.

Details of our work and mission appear on our website. Whether your concern is LGBT rights, refugee rights or both, we invite you to learn more about us by visiting


Scott Piro
Communications Consultant

on behalf of
ORAM – Organization for Refuge, Asylum & Migration
Tel: +1 415 373-5299|Fax: + 1 415 373 9191|


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