A lesbian from the former Soviet republic of Turkmenistan has been granted asylum in the United States by the Department of Homeland Security. The woman, whose name is being withheld because of fears of reprisal by the Turkmenistan government against family members still in the country, had entered the country on a tourist visa and then applied for refugee status. She was aided by Columbia Law School’s Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic which prepared a dossier on the way gays and lesbians are treated in Turkmenistan.
Gay men can be imprisoned for two years on charges of homosexuality. Although there is no specific law against lesbians, they are discriminated in employment with few ever getting jobs. In some cases, in the mostly Moslem country, lesbians are forced by their families into marriages. The government also operates Soviet-style "re-education" camps where political dissidents and sexual minorities are "treated". The woman also had ties to dissident groups and feared she would be imprisoned for her political views. She was referred to the Columbia law clinic by Immigration Equality, a national organization focused on LGBT immigration rights. Since January, three law students students from the Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic have provided legal assistance to the woman.
The grant of asylum is believed to be the first-ever issued to a lesbian from Turkmenistan.
"The intensive research and information about conditions for lesbians and gay men in Turkmenistan gathered by the students on this case is now available to anyone from Turkmenistan seeking asylum because of their sexual orientation," said Prof. Suzanne B. Goldberg, who directs the Clinic. "We were very surprised at the speed with which we were given an interview after filing,” said Jonathan A.Lieberman, who worked on the case. "The interview, which has taken years to schedule for asylum seekers who applied before recent efforts were begun to trim the backlog, was scheduled for only a few weeks after the Department of Homeland Security received the application."
Lieberman and the two other students who worked on the case accompanied the women to the asylum office in Rosedale, New York for her hearing. "We are very proud that our client will be able to live openly as a lesbian and be safe from government-sponsored anti-gay persecution," said Marie-Amélie George who argued the case.
Thursday, 3 May 2007