Primary Investigator Dr Frances Hamilton (Associate Professor, School of Law) and Research Assistant Tahlia-Rose Virdee (Postgraduate Researcher, School of Law) are proud to introduce the LGBTQ+ Travel tool. This interactive tool has been designed to assist both Higher Education Institutions and businesses in the development of policies and processes which are mindful of the concerns and experiences of LGBTQ+ colleagues (both students and staff), who are considering travelling internationally for the purposes of work or education.
As an ally and advocate of LGBTQ+ communities, Dr Frances Hamilton has been conducting a number of research projects recently, concerning the manner in which Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in England and Wales reconcile their responsibilities of protecting their LGBTQ+ staff and students when implementing globalisation initiatives. Together with co-author Dr Cameron Giles (London South Bank University), Frances published a research output detailing their findings from Freedom of Information requests sent to all UK Higher Education Institutions, Nationwide. These findings detailed that advice given to LGBTQ+ staff and students considering international travel for the purposes of work or education is lacking, and often does not consider the specific concerns and experiences of LGBTQ+ persons (See Frances Hamilton and Cameron Giles, ‘International Academic Mobility, Agency and LGBTQ+ Rights: A Review of Policy Responses to Internationally Mobile LGBTQ+ staff / students at UK HE Institutions with Recommendations for a Global Audience’ Policy Reviews in Higher Education (2021) 1 -22. DOI: 10.1080/23322969.2021.1969990).
This research was furthered by a project conducted by Dr Frances Hamilton and Postgraduate Research Assistant, Tahlia-Rose Virdee, concluding in March 2022. This second phase project explored the lived-experiences of fifteen LGBTQ+ academics at UK HEIs, and was concerned with interviewee observations and conceptions of institutional globalisation initiatives and the inclusion of LGBTQ+ stakeholder concerns and experiences in policies and processes regarding international travel. The cumulative findings of these research projects highlight that there is a distinct lack of effective policy which includes consideration of specified LGBTQ+ risks, dangers and concerns. These circumstances have been exacerbated by several factors, including: LGBTQ+ stakeholders not being consulted or having their concerns dismissed in the process of institutional policy formation, a lack of or poorly informed policy to safeguard against specific risks to LGBTQ+ persons, and the use of objective risk assessments which do not produce thorough and well-considered plans of action for LGBTQ+ international travellers.
Said distinct oversight on policy considerations can cause barriers to access for LGBTQ+ staff and students considering international travel for work or education purposes, including concerns on how to stay safe and avoid discrimination, violence and even prosecution in jurisdictions that are legally culturally, and socially hostile towards LGBTQ+ individuals, and a lack of redress for discrimination faced in receiving international jurisdictions upon their return home. These omissions of specific LGBTQ+ experiences are particularly concerning when considering the disparities in the treatment of LGBTQ+ persons on a global scale, where presently over 70 countries worldwide retain criminal sanctions for consensual same-sex sexual activity between men, over 40 countries criminalise sexual activity between women, and many other jurisdictions discriminate on various grounds against LGBTQ+ persons (Human Dignity Trust, 2019).
Operationalising these findings and using Research England’s Rapid Response Policy Engagement Fund, Dr Frances Hamilton had proposed to produce an electronic toolkit to assist HEIs, and public and private sector companies to pursue their duty to safeguard their LGBTQ+ stakeholders and commit to their globalisation initiatives, simultaneously. The development of the LGBTQ+ International Travel Tool was completed by July 2023, in accordance with the parameters of the funding. The key deliverable, the interactive tool and its host website, can be viewed here: LGBTQ+ International Travel Tool (lgbtqtraveltool.com).
This interactive and freely accessible toolkit guides both LGBTQ+ persons who may have concerns about travelling abroad, and their employers or organisations who owe duty of care to potential travellers to minimise risks to their safety and wellbeing. Upon completion of the tool, users are provided with personalised feedback and suggestions (dependent on their input into the tool) to consider when developing international travel polices for stakeholders with protected characteristics, with a particular focus on the safeguarding of LGBTQ+ persons.
It is hoped that the data entered into the interactive LGBTQ+ Travel Tool will provide further clarity on the polices and processed in place at HEIs and within businesses to safeguard LGBTQ+ persons, whilst providing these organisations with suggestions on how to improve these measures and protect the safety and well-being of LGBTQ+ persons travelling internationally for the purposes of work or education.
Dr Frances Hamilton has also developed a policy brief with recommendations for LGBTQ+ stakeholder safeguarding, which she is sharing with potential policy decision makers in a bid to ensure that there will be standards implemented for LGBTQ+ persons travelling internationally, with clear and concise duties to LGBTQ+ persons for their employers and education providers to follow.
If you have any questions, queries or suggestions, please direct all correspondence to Dr Frances Hamilton via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.