A lawyer has described the ruling of a UK immigration judge as “from the 16th century” after denying the stay of an asylum seeker because he did not have a gay “demeanour.”
The asylum seeker fled a country where homosexuality is illegal and fears for his life if he has to return, according to his lawyer, Rehana Popal. During the first-tier immigration tribunal in London, the man’s physical appearance was contrasted against a witness, who the judge agreed to be gay on the grounds of their “effeminate manner.”
The judge was described by Popal as being guilty of “a stereotype embedded in prejudice.” The judge focused in on how the witness wore lipstick and presented themselves, using it to deny the claims of the asylum seeker.
Popal further stated, “He has taken a stereotype, used it as a benchmark and compared my client to it. That is totally wrong. You do not need to dress a certain way, carry yourself a certain way or look a certain way to be homosexual. The only thing that makes a person gay is if they are attracted to someone of the same gender.”
The asylum seeker’s older male partner made his own asylum claim and was granted stay a month earlier by a different judge. The judge during the asylum seeker’s case is noted to have commented on the age difference, stating: “I understand that on the gay scene younger men are highly valued.”
Popal said, “It demonstrates the extent to which these cases are so subjective. We have good laws in place, but the problem is their application. I have had clients who are Muslim and gay, and the Home Office sometimes says you can’t be both.”
Previously in 2013, a young woman was refused asylum status in the UK because the Home Office did not believe she was a lesbian. Six years after her deportation to Uganda, in July 2019, the decision was ruled as “an unfair process” by a High Court Judge.
LGBT+ asylum seekers must undergo invasive tests to prove their sexuality. In terms of this case, it shows how these tests rely on outdated stereotypes which put asylum seekers safety at risk.
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