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Lesbian Ugandan asylum-seeker spared deportation

March 9, 2020

In Uganda, LGBT+ people face life in prison as well as violence and discrimination in private and public life. Following a deportation trial, German authorities have granted refugee status to a Ugandan lesbian.

Women demonstrating in Munich on Ugandan lesbian's trial
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/S. Hoppe

A hearing at a Bavarian courthouse on Monday over the asylum application of a lesbian woman from Uganda was thrown out after she was granted her refugee status by federal authorities. 

The judge decided that the 41-year-old asylum-seeker, who faces violence and prosecution in her home country, will not be deported.

The Bavarian court did not need to make a decision after the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees admitted that the woman qualified for refugee status at the trial.

LGBT+ people in Uganda can face life imprisonment for engaging in sexual relations, as well as discrimination in private and public spheres. An October 2019 proposed law — referred to as the "Kill the Gays" bill — floated the introduction of the death penalty for LGBT+ people. The legislation was later voided.

Read more: Gay, lesbian, queer — What is LGBT+ and LGBTTQQIAAP?

Case 'not a precedent'

Advocacy groups said that the case could act as a precedent for LGBT+ refugees in Germany and Europe.

"The court's decision will be decisive not only for the woman concerned but for countless women who have come to Germany and are in the same situation," LeTRa, a Munich-based counselling service for lesbians, said in a press statement.

"Life threatening danger [for LGBT+ people] is mostly not recognized by Bavarian authorities," they added. "This verdict could change that."

However, the judge clarified that it was an "individual case" and did not mark a precedent for Ugandan or LGBT+ asylum-seekers.

LeTRa organized a demonstration in front of the courthouse as the hearing took place.

Read more: Why is homosexuality still taboo in many African countries?

How is asylum granted for LGBT+ people?

The Lesbian and Gay Federation in Germany, the largest LGBT+ nongovernmental organization in Germany, says that for homosexual people to have asylum cases approved in Germany, it has to be proved in court that "acts of persecution [in the asylum-seeker's home country] are so severe that they constitute serious violations to basic human rights."

Most asylum applications from Uganda are rejected, according to figures from Germany's Agency for Migrants and Refugees. In 2017, of 327 applications for asylum from Ugandans, 220 were rejected, meaning only 17.1% of people were granted protection.

The German government does not gather statistics to show how many of these asylum-seekers left their countries because of their sexual orientation.

Choosing love over hate: What it's like being a lesbian in Kenya

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Kommentarbild PROVISORISCH Elliot Douglas
Elliot Douglas Elliot Douglas is a video, audio and online journalist based in Berlin.