A serious post for once - it turns out gay and lesbian people seeking asylum in the UK are being told by UK Border Agency staff to ‘prove’ their sexual orientation, in some cases having to hand over photo and video evidence of “highly personal sexual activity” in an effort to persuade officials.
The United Nations human rights conventions set down a basic expectation that people should be able to “live freely and openly” in their own country without fear of persecution. However there are plenty of countries where this isn’t possible for LGBT people (extend that as necessary - LGBTQ, LGBTQI, HLBTQIPO and so on), often with high levels of victimisation of people with ‘non-straight’ orientations. So, yeah, they end up as asylum-seekers.
Many won’t be seeking asylum just because of their sexuality. They may also be political activists, human rights campaigners or others considered ‘dissident’ in a range of ways. But when they get to the UK, the Border Agency wants them to prove their sexual orientation.
That’s an interesting concept. If you had to get out of your country safely and seek asylum, would you want to be caught with evidence that could result in your being arrested if it was found in your luggage, your pockets, your mobile phone…? If you make it to a country you think is safe, and you’re alone there, how would you feel about it being suggested to you, albeit in slightly coded language, that it would be an idea to make an amateur porn video to prove your sexual orientation and hand it over as proof? Would you do it? Pick up someone randomly for sex and video it as proof? Would you feel ‘Fuck that, if I’m going to go down that road I’ll make sure it’s on Xhamster or some other porn tube and just give them the URL’?
In any case you’d probably be (a) offended, (b) concerned if you’re a political dissident that any video could be used to discredit you and (c) wonder whether the officials you’re dealing with are on the level. I would, anyway. And I’m not even gay, for me it would be more like ‘You say you’re into BDSM, so send us a video of you tying someone up and spanking them’. Er… I think not.
So: the Home Affairs Committee is looking at this and so far they seem to be rather alarmed and concerned this is taking place. More from the BBC is on their report “UK asylum seekers ‘told to prove they are gay’” which includes an audio interview with one asylum seeker describing what she had to prove to an immigration tribunal.
Perhaps the most enlightened comment on the audio comes from the head of the Law Society who points out that ‘gay’ isn’t a case of who you have sex with, it’s a self-identity that affects a wide range of lifestyle issues besides sex; someone who’s gay is gay even if they never have sex, and in any event much of the discrimination in the asylum seekers’ home countries starts not because of who they have sex with but because of accusations about other aspects of their lifestyle and values.