Gay men and women seeking asylum in the United Kingdom face detention and having to deal with homophobia not only from other inmates, but even from those who are paid to detain them, a Member of the European Parliament said on Saturday.
Speaking at an IDAHO rally, Dr. Caroline Lucas, the Green Party MEP for South East England, demanded that the British government makes homophobia and transphobia absolute grounds for asylum.
“It’s truly shocking to recall that it’s only 18 years since the World Health Organisation removed
“homosexuality” from the list of so called mental disorders… but that is the anniversary we are marking here in Brighton today,” she told the 200 or so who braved the rain in the seafront..
“There has been progress. But there remain 77 countries around the world where homosexual acts are still a criminal offence and seven countries where the punishment is execution.
“We condemn this as a direct affront to international human rights law, we demand that our government and the EU stop turning a blind eye to these atrocities, and we demand that they work to help to end them.”
“The theme for this year IDAHO event is ‘women’ – which gives us the opportunity to reflect on the compound discrimination faced by LGBT women: as women stereotyped by a sexist society, then by being lesbian in a homophobic society, often isolated within the wider LGBT community,” she continued.
“Take the example of Pegah Emambakhsh, a lesbian, who Gordon Brown is trying to deport back to Iran, where he knows she faces torture and probably stoning to death for her sexual orientation.
“Can we even begin to imagine what Pegah is going through as she continues to fight to prevent herself being sent back to certain persecution?
LGBT ssylum seekers in this country face detention having to deal with homophobia not only from other inmates, but even from those who are paid to detain them.
“Those who assess their claims may have no understanding of homophobia, and be completely unable to understand the real dimensions of the persecution they face.”
Dr. Lucas said on International Day Against Homophobia that out a clear message has to be sent to the government.
“Our message is this: that neither homophobia, transphobia, nor any other kind of prejudice, have any place in society today.”
Turning to Europe, she said that pressure has to be maintained on all EU Governments to respect the human rights of all their citizens, in keeping with the European Convention on Human Rights.
“This impacts on anyone in the UK exercising their right to work and travel in the EU, like those from Brighton who travelled to Riga Pride in Latvia last year in order to ensure that Riga Pride 2007 went ahead.
“Only a week ago, the police in Moldova stood by organised thugs [who] threatened violence against LGBT people who tried and sadly failed to hold a Pride Parade.
“This is a country seeking membership of the EU, which isn’t even adhering to the most basic human rights.
“It is, sadly, no surprise that some of the world’s most oppressive regimes, like those in Iran, China, continue to harass, abuse and discriminate against their citizens on the basis of their sexuality but that our government here in the UK isn’t challenging this daily is totally unacceptable.
“How can Britain send an effective message that homophobic discrimination against LGBT people is unacceptable if the same British Government is forcing LGBT asylum seekers back to countries which they know retain execution and torture for LGBT people.
“It’s true, of course, that there have been improvements here in the UK, thanks to the work and struggle of LGBT people themselves but hard-won battles can be over-turned – and we cannot forget that the new Tory Mayor of London has called gay marriages a 'ludicrous parody of the real thing'.
“It’s time for a renewed campaign to persuade our government to take human rights seriously – and to make stamping out all forms of discrimination a bedrock of British foreign policy.
“To that end, I will be writing to foreign secretary David Milliband with practical suggestions of how we can support Pride events across Europe.
“I am delighted to be able to mark another IDAHO here in Brighton, and to celebrate diversity with one of the most vibrant and diverse LGBT communities in the world,” she concluded.