The title is strong, but is no exaggeration. Whether it’s a matter of intentional homophobia on the part of specific persons, or institutionalized homophobia on the part of government structures and organizations, the UK Government is indeed homophobic. If you’ve read my previous article for No More Lost, you’ll note that I don’t use the term lightly: People are dying as a result of this Governments culpable failure to keep its word. This Lib Dem/Conservative coalition government promised so much, but has entirely failed to deliver. We had hoped that the conservatives had changed – they have not. We had hoped that the Liberal Democrats would bring progress and enthusiasm for change – they have not. They brought us promises, and then failed to even as much as seriously attempt to realize them.
With that said, it is clearly not a lack of action that makes a government homophobic, and nor is it the lack of material results from its promises. The mark of a homophobic government is that it threatens the rights and lives of LGB people, is complicit through inaction when it’s legislation is clearly and obviously bent in such a way as to hurt LGB people, or when it actually acts to that effect complicitly. This is the test of a homophobic government, and this is the evidence:
Promise 1: We will look at the possibility of enacting marriage equality.
Well, frankly, as promises go this one is all a bit empty really. It’s not a promise of action, and it’s not a promise of any kind of solid view. It says “We’ll think about it”… so where’s the thought? Where’s the indication of progress being made on this issue by the Government. The Government has done nothing of note on this issue. That, of course, is not the mark of homophobia. The mark of homophobia comes in that the Government is in the mean time trying to promote marriage as being the all important cornerstone of family and society. In so doing, it sets things up so that married people can access perks and benefits. Of course, if LGB people cannot get married, they cannot access them. The message, taken to its logical conclusion, is effectively “Heterosexual marriage should be encouraged and rewarded… but you LGBT people are clearly not as valuable to society and are thus undeserving of the potential for equal reward.”
Promise 2: “This Government will defend the most vulnerable”. “It will defend LGBT rights”.
There is one notable success for the Government here. Until this government, gay men were banned from donating blood, which has been a long standing bone of contention. Under this Government, that’s changed: Gay men are now allowed to donate blood… as long as they haven’t had sex in the last 10 years! Frankly, that’s really no better!
However, as a group, it is well documented that LGBT people are statistically far more likely to be “vulnerable” than the population as a whole – that much is kind of obvious really… and yet government cuts are hitting services important to many LGBT people, and they’re hitting those services hard!
Add to that the fact that an act introduced by the last Government aimed at simplifying a wide variety of laws relating to equality, including LGBT equality, has come under attack from this Government. The Equalities act is being presented to the public as possible red tape to be cut, and the Government are seeking comments on it on that basis. After overwhelming support for the act on the Government’s “Red Tape Challenge” website, the Government opted to re-present the question, leading many to believe that the Government will not be happy until it recieves the answers it wants as justification for weakening or removing these protections.
Promise 3: Those persecuted because of their sexual orientation will be afforded asylum in the UK.
in July 2010, shortly after the Government came into power, the UK Supreme Court ruled that the refusal to grant asylum to those who were persecuted because of their sexuality with the reasoning that “they can just go back and hide it to avoid persecution”, was a violation of human rights law. The Government welcomed this – publicly at least.
The Home Office told the UK Border Agency was that the new rules should be applied “with immediate effect” and that relevant cases should be “flagged and recorded”… but more than 7 months later, such cases are still not being counted and so there is no way of telling how the new rules are being applied…
… well, no accurate way, but there’s certainly a way to gauge it to some extent. We have had various highly publicised cases of people who have been refused asylum on grounds of persecution because of their sexuality:
There’s Brenda Namigadde, a Ugandan Lesbian who was initially refused entry following a ruling that she was not really a lesbian, on ground that since being in the UK she had “taken no interest in forms of media by magazines, books or other information relating to her sexual orientation.” -ignoring of course, the less-than-subsistence benefits she was surviving on while making her claim- and citing no evidence of her living a lesbian “lifestyle”. This, of course, irrespective of the fact that the publicity surrounding her case alone would surely have put her at risk if refused asylum.
More recently, we have the case of Betty Tibakawa, a Ugandan whom despite being branded with a hot iron twice on her inner thighs for being lesbian, and outed in the Ugandan magazine ‘Red Pepper’, has been refused asylum on grounds that she, again, is not genuinely gay, and faces no persecution in Uganda.
We have the case of Edson “Eddy” Cosmas, a gay man from Tanzania who was denied asylum at the first hurdle. The letter rejecting his claim, “attempts to paint the existence of bars where gay men are known to be found and other gay meeting places and gay organisations as indicating that it is possible to be gay, albeit ‘discretely’. Also, a lack of prosecutions is mentioned, presumably to suggest a lack of formal state repression and that it is ‘safe’ to return a gay man.”
LGBT Asylum News reports: “According to In interview, minor discrepancies in Eddy’s statements are taken as totally undermining his credibility. Many relate to his sexual history.”
These are just a selection of the higher profile requests for asylum – these are just some of those that have made headlines. With headlines like these, how common do you suppose this kind of thing is, especially among those who have not yet spent any time in the UK, or who don’t have the support of a network of friends and family here: those who don’t really have a voice to speak out about it?
Ironically, Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, not very long ago claimed success in his pledge that “those facing persecution would no longer be deported” … yet people applying for asylum on grounds of persecution because of their sexual orientation or trans identity are being put through the “detained fast track process”, which is almost purpose made for those who’s claims are uncomplicated and have very no real basis for the granting of asylum – in spite of the fact that LGBT claims are often notoriously complex.
This is a Government that really reached out for the “pink vote”, no doubt in part because the Conservatives wished tho shed the public perception of them as ‘the Nasty Party’. To the credit of the Lib Dems, at least on a party level they are the first to commit to Marriage Equality – though it should be noted the Nick Clegg is a Lib Dem too!
What will it take for this government to change course, stick to its word, and support LGBT people as it promised rather than hurt LGBT people? Perhaps it needs embarrasing into action? We can but try…
The Home Office, which in particular is the Government department responsible for the UK Border Agency which decides upon asylum claims. The Home Office won an award from major UK LGB campaigning organization Stonewall, topping it’s list of gay friendly employers. Does the Home office sound Gay friendly to you? It may generally treat it’s employees well, but it’s certainly not doing a lot for those LGBT people it’s supposed to be helping, and shows no inclination to enforce its own orders to do so either. Shouldn’t a Gay friendly employer not only be friendly to those LGBT people in its employment, but also be an LGBT friendly organization that happens to employ people?
Perhaps Stonewall ought to consider rescinding the award, in light of the Home Office’s treatment of LGBT asylum seekers, many of whom may well have been sent to their deaths, in the full and complicit knowledge of the UK Home Office. Perhaps they should be encouraged to rescind it: It’s certainly a start. Sign the petition.