A lesbian, she was attacked by three men in her home country
6th July 2011: Branded by iron over sexuality, Ugandan woman faces deportation from the UK as her asylum claim has been turned down UK immigration authority. A lesbian, she was attacked by three men in her home country.
Currently detained in Yarl’s Wood immigration removal centre in Bedford, 22-year-old Betty Tibikawa is awaiting removal directions following the rejection of her asylum claim.
The move comes soon after deputy prime minister Nick Clegg’s announcement on the coalition ending the practice of deporting people to countries where they face persecution due to their sexual orientation.
Tibikawa was due to go to university in Kampala when three men attacked her after taunting her about her sexuality. After pinning her down in an abandoned building, she was branded on her inner thighs with a hot iron.
She was left her unconscious and was confined to bed for two months. An independent medical report confirmed the scars were consistent with being branded with a hot iron.
She says she cannot sleep and is having terrible nightmares about her future if she is sent back to Uganda, as her family has already disowned her because she is a lesbian and is convinced she will be killed if sent home.
The development is significant as the Home Office was only recently criticized on the issue.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) had asserted the gay or lesbian asylum seekers were regularly told to go home and keep their sexuality secret to avoid repercussions under the "discretion-test" used by immigration officials and courts since 2006.
As such, the UNHCR said it believed the UK was turning international convention "on its head".
Elaborating, the UNHCR’s legal officer in London, Alexandra McDowall, said the “discretion test” introduces an element that shouldn’t be there.
It was akin to asking a Jew to hide in the attic to avoid being sent to the concentration camps?
She said it compelled failed gay and lesbian applicants to live under a veil of secrecy back home.
McDowall said people facing threats because of their sexuality were a protected group, alongside those facing religious or political persecution.
Persecution does not cease to be persecution just because an individual can take avoiding action by being discreet, she added.