Monday, 7 June 2010

LGBT asylum discussed on BBC Radio Four

By Paul Canning

BBC Radio Four's Women's Hour reached over three million listeners last week in a segment about LGBT asylum which LGBT Asylum News helped organise.

Veteran presenter Jenni Murray spoke with Prossy Kakooza , a Ugandan who finally won UK asylum last year after a long campaign, and Ruth Hunt, Deputy Director of Public Affairs at Stonewall, about their new report on LGBT asylum.

Kakooza told Murray about what she had fled from. How did her family react when they discovered she was a lesbian?

"Not very well. I think it was worse by the fact that I was 'caught red-handed'. It was my family who marched me to the police, naked. Later, when I got out of the prison, I was going to be sacrificed. There's a belief, when something like that happens, to take the curse out of the family, you have to die. I heard them discussing it."

"At the police station I was savagely attacked. I was raped by four different men and burnt."

"It's seven years to life imprisonment in Uganda - and now they are discussing the death penalty."

"I was able to escape because I was in charge of the finances in the business I had with my mother and my brother helped me to escape at night - I was tied up. I paid a lot of money to an agent in town to help me come here."

"Here, I went to Croydon [the UK Border Agency office]. I was interviewed by a lady who wasn't very sympathetic, but I suppose that's their job. I was transferred to Bolton [near Manchester] and I was in so much pain. I went to a [hospital] and the nurses refused to touch me, they called the police who took me somewhere where they examined my injuries and reports were made. It was a very traumatic time."

"[Despite this evidence] at first the [Border Agency] said it was false, but then they had to concede. In my case they did believe I was a lesbian but they still refused me to stay."

"They said that I'm an intelligent, educated women and I could relocate in Uganda. This would be impossible. Uganda is not the same as the UK where a young lady can move from home and live in a different town without family ties, living a normal life. You are expected to have family protection [in Uganda]."

"In the end I won not so much because of the evidence presented but because of the successful campaign. There was an internet campaign with more than 5000 signatures online and more than 3000 on paper. It was only because they considered me to be - in inverted commas - an 'activist'. They said my profile is high in Uganda and it would be easy to recognise me. It was unfortunate that they did not rely so much on the evidence that was in front of them."

"I can't tell you how traumatic the process was. This was only a couple of months after everything had happened to me and you're talking to people who are looking you in the eye and saying 'you're lying'. It's the worst thing that can happen, especially if you have been raped. I tried to commit suicide and spent three weeks in hospital because I just couldn't cope."

"Now the future is good. I'm going back to University, I have a lot of friends around me, I go to Manchester Metropolitan Community Church. But I have a partner back home who is still in prison and some days you really can't cope."

Ruth Hunt, from Stonewall, talking about the LGBT asylum seekers they'd spoken with to compile their report 'No Going Back', described Prossy as "lucky' because she was able to get a successful campaign going.

Asked how the system should change, Hunt said "the first thing is stop applying the 'discretion test'. They can go back and just because they were raped before they won't be raped again. New Zealand, Australia has abandoned this, there's an acceptance that being gay is your human right."

"We can't apply British standards to what sort of behaviour we expect [of LGBT] - one Border Agency staff member told us he would expect someone to have read Oscar Wilde, this is preposterous."


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