Thursday, July 08, 2010

A victory for decency

Overnight, the UK Supreme Court ruled unanimously that gay asylum seekers could not be deported if they faced a threat of persecution in their home countries. That would seem to be obvious, given the Refugee Convention's definition of a refugee as someone with a well-founded fear of persecution. But the UK government had insisted that gays from virulently homophobic countries such as Iran or who faced death threats from bigoted neighbours could simply go home and "live discretely".

The Supreme Court has put a stop to that. In reading out the judgement, Lord Hope made the point that

To compel a homosexual person to pretend that his sexuality does not exist or suppress the behaviour by which to manifest itself is to deny his fundamental right to be who he is.
Its good to see that the UK will now be respecting that right.

Unfortunately, the idea that persecuted people can simply "live discretely" - i.e. deny their fundamental identity - is not limited to the homophobic bigots of the UK Home Office. The New Zealand government regularly tells those fleeing religious persecution in countries like Iran that they can "live discretely" and practice their religion in secret. This is as abhorrent as the UK's institutionalised homophobia, and its something which has to stop.

The full UK Supreme Court judgement is here [PDF].