Jamaican lesbian can stay in UK, tribunal rules

(BBC) A Jamaican lesbian has won the right to stay in the UK after immigration judges ruled she risks persecution if she returns to her home country.

The woman, who cannot be identified but lives in Stoke-on-Trent, was originally refused leave to remain in the UK by the Home Office.

She asked to stay on the basis she was an “out” lesbian and her home country is “deeply homophobic”.

A tribunal has now ruled she can remain in the UK.

Aware as girl

Her case was reconsidered by the Upper Tribunal’s Immigration and Asylum Chamber in London where senior immigration judges said she was “entitled to refugee protection”.

The case was identified by the judges as one of potential “country guidance” on the issue of the risks to lesbians returning to Jamaica.

The tribunal heard the woman became aware of her sexuality as a young girl.

Unable to be open, she had lived as a “discreet lesbian”, socialising with a select group of women who organised meetings via an internet chatroom.

She told the tribunal that while out with this group on one occasion they were identified as possible lesbians because they were dancing together, rather than with men, and the DJ began playing hostile songs with anti-gay lyrics.

A group of men then threatened to “convert them” – implying they would rape them – and followed them out of the bar.

Corrective rape

The women escaped unharmed.

After making a number of trips abroad, where she enjoyed more freedom, the woman returned each time to her covert way of life in Jamaica – leading to clinical depression and stress which she said she was unable to discuss with her doctor.

It was only when she came to the UK to study in 2003 that she was able to have open relationships with other women.

Urging the tribunal to recognise her refugee status, the woman insisted she would not be able to go back to living “discreetly” if she went back to Jamaica.

She said that after more than seven years living as an openly gay woman she was “not the same person” and was not prepared to risk her depression returning.

She also said her relationship with her current girlfriend would end if she returned home, because her partner was not prepared to move to a country where it is not safe to be an open lesbian.

‘Highly unlikely’

Her lawyers said Jamaica is a “deeply homophobic society” and lesbians, as well as women who are “perceived” as being gay, face a risk of violence including “corrective” rape and murder.

They argued that if the woman returned to Jamaica she would be living as a single woman with no “heterosexual narrative” and would therefore be exposed to such a risk.

They also said she would be deprived of expressing her sexuality as she was no longer prepared to go out with anyone who was not openly gay and it was highly unlikely she would find such a partner in Jamaica.

Allowing her appeal, senior immigration Judges Gleeson and Spencer said that any return to discreet living would be because of her fear of persecution rather than “by reason of social pressures”.

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