The UK Border Agency is yet again trying to deport asylum seekers who are gay or who are thought to be gay back to Uganda. Uganda remember is the country which until very recently was debating passing a bill in their parliament which would punish homosexuality by death. Imagine what sort of attitudes are fuelling that level of hatred, and imagine what effects such mainstream views would have on how people treat gay people or people who are thought to be gay. How can the Home Office, allegedly a champion of gay rights for its staff, still be indifferent to the consequences of homophobia abroad? Others agree:
Emma Ginn, co-ordinator of Medical Justice, said: “Despite compelling medical evidence, the UK Border Agency disbelieves Ms Tibikawa’s story. UKBA do not dispute that Ms Tibikawa has scars caused by a hot flat iron, but conclude that she did not suffer any ill-treatment in Uganda. We condemn the fact that they intend to deport Ms Tibakawa to a country where being gay is illegal and puts your life at risk.”
Human Rights Watch spokeswoman Gauri van Gulik said: “Our research has shown that many cases of women like Betty are not taken seriously by the UK Border Agency. Unfortunately women who suffer this kind of violence have serious difficulty claiming asylum.”
Betty Tibakawa, a young lesbian living in Uganda, had gone for a walk on the beach when she was approached by three men she did not know, but who knew her by reputation, who began taunting her about her sexuality.
They took her to a disused building where she was violently assaulted. The men kicked her in the stomach, pinned her down and branded her inner thighs with hot irons. She lost consciousness and when she woke up, the men were gone. Her injuries were so severe that she could not leave her home for two months.
In February, Ugandan magazine Red Pepper outed Betty as a lesbian, publishing an article about her illustrated with photos, and the claim that she is ‘wanted’ for being a lesbian.
It has become incredibly dangerous for her to return to Uganda, where she has been disowned by her family and faces the risk of violent persecution for being gay.
Betty Tibakawa has had her asylum application turned down and is facing deportation back to Uganda, where homosexuality is illegal. Gay women who are deported to Uganda risk being raped and assaulted whilst they are in custody.
We are petitioning the Home Office to overrule this decision from the UK Border Agency, to give Betty the chance to live a life free from violence and fear. No one should be deported to country where they will be persecuted for their sexuality. We owe those seeking asylum in this country better than this.
Please sign the petition from this page.
Petition put together by Betty Tibakawa’s Campaign Group.
People are being killed in Uganda for being gay, and the ConDems are making a huge play about being gay friendly and more civil liberties friendly than their New Labour predecessors, but is Theresa May’s Home Office any less blind to homophobia against asylum seekers than Alan Johnson’s or Jacqui Smith’s? Read the story of Brenda Namigadde, who faces deportation to Uganda, where her life will be without question at risk:
Inside Yarl’s Wood detention centre, awaiting deportation to Uganda in less than 24 hours, Brenda Namigadde is desperate.
Namigadde fled her home country eight years ago after being persecuted for her relationship with another woman. She says she has always intended to return home when “things were better”. But things, she says, have just got worse.
After the murder of the gay Ugandan activist David Kato and with a chilling warning from Ugandan MP David Bahati ringing in her ears, she says she fears her life is over. Bahati, the author of a bill which would impose the death penalty on homosexuals, intervened in Namigadde’s case to warn her she should “repent” or be arrested on her return.
Speaking from Yarl’s Wood, Namigadde, 29, says: “My life is in danger. I don’t know what will happen to me. I’m very scared. I haven’t eaten, I haven’t slept.”
She knows from experience what returning to her country will mean for her, she says. “I’ll be tortured, or killed, if I’m sent back. They’ve put people like me to death there.”
My point is this: even if the UK Border Agency were convinced (which they are) that she’s not gay (she demonstrably is), using the argument they always fall back on that ‘anyone could claim asylum by just pretending to be gay’, how could she morally be repatriated if Ugandan homophobes are on public record threatening her life anyway? The agency, a branch of the supposedly gay-friendly Home Office (don’t make me laugh, Stonewall), may not have suggested she just go home and ‘be discreet’ as they did under New Labour with gay Iranian asylum seekers, but just saying ‘she can’t prove she’s gay’ is surely no more acceptable.
Her asylum claim was turned down partly on the basis that the judge did not believe there was any evidence that she was homosexual.
Matthew Coats, head of immigration at the UK Border Agency, said her case had been considered by both the UK Border Agency and the courts on two separate occasions. “She has been found not to have a right to remain here,” he said. “An Immigration Judge found on the evidence before him that Ms Namigadde was not homosexual.”
What should she do to prove her sexual orientation? Have sex with a woman in front of a judge? For that matter is Coats suggesting that the story the Guardian reports of her past relationship is a lie? I’d be interested to know what criteria the UK Border Agency uses to prove whether or not someone is ‘homosexual’, and whether or not they take into account whether or not other people, even erroneously, believe they’re gay. The coalition agreement says:
“We will stop the deportation of asylum seekers who have had to leave particular countries because their sexual orientation or gender identification puts them at proven risk of imprisonment, torture or execution.”
And what about the http://madikazemi.blogspot.com/2011/01/in-uk-new-instructions-on-deciding-lgbt.html, forcibly updated by the Supreme Court?
Brenda Namigadde must not be deported to Uganda.
The Melanie Philips’ of the world don’t understand why it’s important to have protections for gay people written into law, nor why it’s important to teach the upcoming generations why hating people for being different is wrong. This is why:
David Kato, the advocacy officer for Sexual Minorities Uganda, was bludgeoned to death in Mukono, Kampala, yesterday afternoon. Witnesses saw a man fleeing the scene in a car, and police are investigating.
Along with other Ugandan gay activists, Kato had reported increased harassment since 3 January, when a high court judge granted a permanent injunction against the Rolling Stone tabloid newspaper, preventing it from identifying homosexuals in its pages.
Late last year, Kato had been pictured on the front page of an issue carrying the headline “Hang Them”. He was one of the three complainants in the court case.
“Since the ruling, David said people had been harassing him, and warning they would ‘deal with him,’” Julian Pepe Onziema, a close friend and fellow gay rights activist, said.
The homophobia currently going mad in Uganda is religiously inflamed. That’s right – Christians who are supposed to believe in charity actually denying people equal rights (or indeed the right to life) for their inherent sexual orientation. Love the sinner, hate the sin? Not in Uganda – they at least know there’s no difference.
Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill has kicked up a storm worldwide, and it’s so-called Ethics Minister has responded, saying:
The Ugandan minister for ethics and integrity has suggested that the country will ditch its plans to execute gays in favour of life imprisonment.
James Nsaba Buturo said this would allow authorities to rehabilitate gays.
According to Reuters, he said: “There have been a lot of discussions in government … regarding the proposed law, but we now think a life sentence could be better because it gives room for offenders to be rehabilitated. Killing them might not be helpful.”
He denied the country had bowed down to international pressure. World powers such as the US, UK, France and Sweden had all heavily condemned the proposed law and Sweden had mooted the idea that aid could be cut to Uganda.
Instead, Buturo said: “It’s really out of our consultation with various groups, including religious leaders. It has nothing to do with external forces.”
Sure it isn’t. I would hope however that the Western governments which have threatened withdrawal of aid because of this disgraceful attack on human rights will stand for life imprisonment equally as little. Deutsche Welle points out:
The bill, which is yet to be debated in Uganda’s parliament, would have gay men and lesbians sentenced to life in prison for having sex. In cases of sex with minors or sexual acts leading to HIV infection, the penalty would be death. The bill also proposes that anyone who fails to report a homosexual act committed by others would face up to three years in jail.
Insane. State dehumanisation of minorities is what led to the Holocaust. Uganda is clearly indifferent to that; I hope the EU governments are not.
You’d think it unlikely that our largest public service broadcaster should become part of the problem in relation to Uganda’s push towards gay genocide, but look at this:
Should homosexuals face execution?
Yes, we accept it is a stark and disturbing question. But this is the reality behind an Anti-Homosexuality Bill being debated on Friday by the Ugandan parliament which would see some homosexual offences punishable by death.
The bill proposes:
Life imprisonment for those convicted of a homosexual act
The death sentence where the offender has HiV, is a “serial offender” or the other person is under 18.
Imprisonment for seven years for “attempted homosexuality.”
The bill claims to ‘protect the…traditional family values of the people of Uganda’, but it has prompted widespread international condemnation.
Homosexuality is regarded as taboo in much of Africa, where it is often regarded as a threat to cultural, religious and social values.
Has Uganda gone too far? Should there be any level of legislation against homosexuality? Should homosexuals be protected by legislation as they are in South Africa? What would be the consequences of this bill to you? How will homosexual ‘offences’ be monitored? Send us your views.
Should Jews be gassed? Would that be going too far? Should there be any level of legislation against Judaism? If the BBC actually posed those questions and asked for people’s views they’d be in breach of all sorts of incitement and hate speech legislation, yet in the name of ‘impartiality’ they’re actually not just prepared to debate the merits of executing gay people, but are prepared to defend doing so:
The editors of the BBC Africa Have Your Say programme thought long and hard about using this question which prompted a lot of internal debate.
We agree that it is a stark and challenging question, but think that it accurately focuses on and illustrates the real issue at stake.
If Uganda’s democratically elected MPs vote to proceed with the Anti-Homosexuality Bill this week they will bring onto the statute book legislation that could condemn people to death for some homosexual activities.
We published it alongside clear explanatory text which gave the context of the bill itself (see above). And as we said at the top of our debate page, we accept it is a stark and disturbing question. But this is the reality behind the bill.
I’ve always used the tag line from ‘Good Night and Good Luck’ to deal with so-called journalism like this: just because there are two sides to an argument doesn’t mean they are both equally true or equally valid. There is no valid pro execution argument here, and to entertain the notion under the guise of ‘impartiality’ is quite simply indefensible. The title is far more than just ‘stark and disturbing’ – by implying it’s a valid subject for ‘debate’ it’s inciteful to homophobic hatred. Join with me and complain here. This blog’s friends at Soho Politico have posted an excellent article with a form letter for you to copy or draw from here.
UPDATE: The title’s been changed to ‘Should Uganda Debate Gay Execution’ but the page is no less offensive or inflammatory.
It would be unthinkable to see laws passed in Washington or EU advocating the death penalty for homosexuality, but Uganda is rushing headlong into a homophobic abyss:
The proposed law is more a rant against homosexuality and the west than a workable piece of legislation intended for Uganda itself. Much of it consists of a list of unfounded claims, starting with the statement that “same sex attraction is not an innate and immutable characteristic”. Infamously, it calls for the execution of gay men found guilty of “aggravated homosexuality” – by which it means those who are HIV positive, or who have sex with someone who is under 18 or disabled. The bill may be amended during its passage through parliament to replace the death penalty with life imprisonment, but that change would be only a gesture to spare the blushes of Uganda’s aid donors. If passed – which looks likely, since its sponsor is a member of Uganda’s ruling party – the bill will continue to write hate into law.
To say that acceptance of homosexuality is a ‘liberal’ or ‘Western’ perspective is essentially to collude in the abuse of gay people around the world. Of course being gay is an innate and immutable characteristic, and to propose the death penalty for HIV positive men and jail for everyone else isn’t just immoral it’s backward. Some will say such a statement is racist, but when was it true that all Ugandans, Africans or black people were homophobic? On the contrary, considering the wide-ranging dangers the bill poses, should we not be allying ourselves with Ugandans opposed to this hate law?
David Bahati, Ndorwa County West minister of parliament, tabled the Bill saying Uganda needed comprehensive legislation to prohibit any form of sexual relations between people of the same sex.
The Bill, according to Bahati, seeks to plug gaps in the Ugandan constitution, and stipulate that marriage is between a man and a woman only. Other unions will not be recognised. And if same sex couples are married abroad, they face life imprisonment.
Practising homosexuality has been illegal in Uganda and is listed in the penal code, though police say it is hard to investigate this crime because “homosexuals operate under cover”.
But the new Bill now forces people in authority to report offences to the police within 24 hours, or they themselves will face fines or up to three years in prison.
Anyone found guilty of committing homosexuality, or advocating homosexuality to a group or assembly, will face a prison sentence. The penalties are up to 10 years in prison or a fine not exceeding $5,500 or both.
The Bill also seeks extra territorial jurisdiction and will apply to any Ugandan involved in a LGBT relationship outside of the country. The Bill also seeks to extradite any Ugandan guilty of the offences it lists.
Under the terms of Britain’s Extradition Act Uganda is covered as a category 2 territory, which, whilst not allowing the extradition of an HIV positive Ugandan, would certainly allow for the extradition of any other Ugandan covered by the country’s gay hate legislation. Should it pass, the Home Office must make it clear that the Act will not be used to allow the infringement of human rights by the Ugandan government, and separately that gay asylum seekers will under no circumstances be returned to Uganda.
This is a law attacking basic human rights and should it pass it must have consequences. The Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law (CHRCL) acknowledges the scope of this attack:
“In reality this would involve Uganda withdrawing from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and its protocols, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), and the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights.”
The Swedes, who currently hold the rotating EU presidency, and who donate $50 annually to Uganda, have said they’ll rescind their annual contribution should the law pass. Britain should not just call for the country to be immediately suspended from the Commonwealth, but she should follow Sweden’s lead.