Saturday 10 July 2010

The UK: The case for persecuted sexuality asylum is made

A ruling for human rights
The Supreme Court in the UK gave two gay men, one from Iran and the other from Cameroon the right to seek refugee status [1] in the UK by reason of their sexuality.
The men having been through the standard processes of seeking asylum had their requests rejected with the Immigration department advising them to return to their countries, live discretely and in the process avoid detection and consequent prosecution for their homosexuality.
The advice might sound rational to some minds but it really goes against the spirit of the conventions that guide the offering of asylum to those fleeing persecution.
Hostile cultures and laws
In Iran, homosexuals run the gauntlet of execution, in Cameroon and many other African countries their laws codify homosexuality as crimes punishable by long terms of imprisonment.
In African countries especially, many fail to appreciate that those laws are really hangovers from colonial times and the so-called colonial masters of the yester-years have already abrogated those laws and given recognition and rights to homosexuals both from a civil and human rights perspectives.
Whereas, certain of these countries might have emancipated in some ways a fundamentalist streak of religious adherence has increased the level of homophobic advocacy and the promulgation of intolerant laws along with the oft touted idea of homosexuality not being in conformity with their customs.
The fact is our customs in general hardly allows the tyranny of the majority over the minority; the people might at worst be ostracised but usually never persecuted, communities find ways to co-exist rather than execute judgement on the different; that is what is really alien to our culture and new to our expression of identity.
Populism dampening our humanity
In the UK and Europe, immigration has been a serious issue and populist politicians have gained electoral leverage with their rhetoric but surely this should not be at the expense of offering refuge to the persecuted.
Some might even count the monetary cost of each refugee but against the greater sense of justice and the lessons to be taught from offering protection to the persecuted as a message to their hostile home countries this far outweighs the reductionism to the so-called waste of taxpayers’ money. Immigration policy toughness expressed in not granting asylum on clear humanitarian grounds is cold-hearted to say the least.
Obviously, there is the issue of the possible abuse of the system, where heterosexuals or borderline bisexuals might claim to be homosexuals or even transsexuals because they are clearly affected too, to gain refugee status.
Sexuality polygraphs
Crude as this might seem one might suggest the use of some sort of sexuality polygraph test, even a sexuality psychometric test or both. It might be demeaning in some ways but the fate that somewhat awaits those who are really not of the sexuality of the majority on being deported to their home countries is a far worse situation.
I am sure this can be designed with psychological, psychiatric, sociological and emotional sensitivity under counselling and humane guidance teasing out the nuanced and latent sensibilities of the subject offering a refined template of measurement that eliminates to some extent stereotypes.
Such tests should also be designed with input from free homosexuals in the West from these hostile cultures so that the assessments are better tuned to get at the underlying truth.
The case is made and closed
The case for granting asylum to those persecuted for their sexuality is made but the one for truly assessing who is a true homosexual for gaining refugee status should commence as a body of evolving knowledge.
As Lord Hope stated in his ruling, “The refugee convention was not drafted with sexuality in mind. That it has become such an important issue today is attributed in part to the rise of religiously motivated ideologies - Christian, Muslim or otherwise - in certain countries.
He goes on to say with respect to advances in social liberties in the West that, “It is only by the distance we have travelled as a society that we are now obliged to offer protection to those who would face prison, rape, torture or death for their sexual identity.
We can only really celebrate our freedoms in truth when we are also ready to grant such to those who find no expression of that freedom in their home countries and seek the protection of ours.

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