If you’ve got it, don’t flaunt it: Another asylum seeker told to go home and be discreet

This article was written by Carrie Lyell for the wonderful Lesbilicious magazine. Re-posted here on request.

Another day, another headline about a failed asylum bid. This time, it’s Angeline Pirara Mwafulirwa and her three children who are currently in a family detention centre in Scotland and will be forcibly removed from the UK this weekend.

Angeline Pirara Mwafulirwa and her children were forcibly removed from their home in Glasgow

Angeline is claiming asylum on the grounds of her sexuality, like many other lesbian and bisexual women who flee their homes in hope of refuge in the UK from a myriad of discrimination and danger they may encounter at home. And yet our government send them home, time and time again, with the message: Be Discreet.

Be discreet? Seriously? I don’t know about you, but my sexuality is much more than just the sex of the person I am attracted to. It influences everything I do. My politics, the television I watch, the newspapers I read, even the shoes on my feet. Discretion does not mean do not hold your girlfriend’s hand in public, it means do not be yourself.

I remember those few years between realising I was gay and telling my family and friends as incredibly isolating and lonely. I was slamming doors and crying myself to sleep, and no one knew why. I was in love with my best friend and I was confused. I couldn’t quite admit it to myself, let alone anyone else. I can’t even comprehend a situation where I wouldn’t be allowed to tell anyone else, for fear of imprisonment, violence or even death. An all too familiar situation for lesbian and bisexual women like Angeline who have been refused asylum in this country and others like it.

Lord Hope said in a 2010 Supreme Court ruling that: “to compel a homosexual person to pretend that his sexuality does not exist or suppress his behavior by which to manifest himself is to deny his fundamental right to be who he is” and still, we don’t talk about protecting the rights of asylum seekers. We don’t talk about immigration at all, as if it’s a dirty word, infecting our mouths with some kind of liberal disease. The mainstream political parties cower to the will of public opinion, refusing to speak positively about immigration issues incase it loses them votes. Incase it alienates their core support. Well you know what? If your core support refuse a safe haven for a woman and her children who are danger because she is attracted to other women, then that’s a core support I don’t want.

Oh yes, that’s right. They come over here, they steal our women, our jobs and our flat screen televisions. I forgot. Instead of talking about the danger that these ‘criminals’ pose to us, why don’t we talk about the danger that these people are fleeing from? With the summer and Pride season almost upon us, whilst you’re dusting off your rainbow flags or planning your Civil Partnership, the sobering reality is this: homosexuality remains illegal in over 80 countries worldwide and is punishable by death in countries like Sudan, Mauritania and Saudi Arabia. Not to mention all the places where the law might have changed, but social attitudes haven’t. Discrimination goes well beyond prosecution. We’re talking humiliation, violence and inequality not only by state officials, but in communities. In families. So many people who have no one to stand up for them or laws to protect them. We don’t know how lucky we are.

The Home Secretary promised two years ago to stop the removal of people whose sexual orientation or gender identity put them at ‘proven’ risk of imprisonment, torture or execution. There have been several high profile cases that have highlighted the problems that people like Angeline face in Malawi, including imprisonment, police violence and exclusion from housing and health services. Angeline fears her children will be taken away by her ex-husband and says she’s scared they are in danger of female genital mutilation at the hands of his family. That’s clearly not enough proof for Teresa May and the Home Office.

Of course, there will be people like May who don’t believe Angeline’s story. A comment under one article said: “’LGBT” – she’s having a laugh – three kids and she’s now claiming LGBT (lol)’” and others who think that she and Waverley Care—an HIV charity that she volunteers for—are lying in a bid to defame Malawi.

For me, it’s not about whether or not Angeline is telling the truth. What is far more important, in my eyes, is our unwillingness to help. All she wants is a safe place to raise her children and the freedom to be who she is without fear of persecution. I feel so lucky to live in a place where my rights are protected, where I can have my relationship recognised by law, where I could serve in the army and adopt a child, if I wanted to. And I want those things for Angeline and her family, and all of those women who are in the same situation but aren’t fortunate enough to have their stories believed. Of the 19,804 applications made for asylum in 2011, more than half were refused. I don’t think even the most hardened cynic could believe they were all lying.

I’ve no doubt that Malawi and countries like it will soon realise that, as Hilary Clinton put it, gay rights are human rights, but until then, we have a responsibility to take care of people like Angeline and her family. It’s not long now until London plays host to World Pride 2012, an event that aims to draw attention to countries where being gay is still illegal and give those who can’t march safely at home an opportunity to do that on our streets. Let’s hope that sentiment lasts a little longer than the British Summer.

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7 Comments

Filed under Human rights, Politics, sexuality, Social comment, War

7 responses to “If you’ve got it, don’t flaunt it: Another asylum seeker told to go home and be discreet

  1. nyasambo

    PETER MKOSI YOU ARE CRAZYYOU JUST DO NOT WISH HER THE BEST.I HATE DEVILS LIKE YOU.SHE IS TELLING THE TRUTH BECAUSE IT IS HER EXPERIENCE NOT YOURS.YOU THINK HOME OFFICE OF ENGLAND WILL GIVE YOU POUNDS FOR BEING AGAINST HER?HAVE LOVE NOT HATRATE.I GREW UP IN MALAWI TOO ALL MY LIFE AND FGM IS PRACTISED SILENTLY PEOPLE THEY DO NOT TALK ABOUT IT.YOU CAN BE SURPRISED THAT EVEN YOUR MOM AND SISTERS ARE MUTILATED TOO.

    Like

    • Peter Nkosi

      Muli uli anyaSambo,

      SHE IS TELLING THE TRUTH

      No she is not. The fairy stories in the LGBT media about Mwafulirwa’s asylum claim are discredited by what has been published in a judgement delivered by a Scottish court, and which is available on the internet (1).

      Mwafulirwa and her family entered the UK legally on a 6 month visitor’s visa. After it expired, she applied for a student visa, but it was refused. She and her family then dropped out of sight and remained in the UK unlawfully for 3½ years before claiming asylum. Her claim was refused, but Mwafulirwa, an intelligent university graduate, appealed repeatedly against the initial decision. Finally, she sought a judicial review of her case. The main submission in her final claim was that her two older children were well settled in the UK and they did not want to go back to Malawi.

      Her request for a judicial review was refused. It is worth noting that this was not the UKBA turning down the request, but the independent Judiciary which saw no merit in her case.

      There are several comments posted to the internet by Malawians that Mawfulirwa was not telling the truth in her asylum application. See reference (2) for an example.

      I GREW UP IN MALAWI

      I wonder!

      FGM IS PRACTISED (IN MALAWI)

      Why not let Unicef settle this, rather than two nonentities arguing about it on the internet?

      In July last year, Unicef published a report on FGM in Africa (3). The word “Malawi” does not appear even once in it. Furthermore, when you look at the maps showing those countries in which FGM is practiced you see that Malawi is completely outwith that band of countries which do. Malawi is shaded a neutral gray, indicating that it is completely off Unicef’s radar. That is to say, FGM is not practiced in Malawi.

      (1) –> http://www.bailii.org/scot/cases/ScotCS/2012/2012CSOH24.html

      (2) –>Musiyeni Akhale comment @ http://carrielyell.wordpress.com/2012/05/07/118/

      (3)–> http://www.unicef.org/media/files/FGCM_Lo_res.pdf

      Like

  2. Peter Nkosi

    I posted a comment here several days ago, but it has not passed your moderation. Is this because I was not praising the article?

    Like

    • Hi Peter,

      Thanks for your comment. Sorry it took me a couple of days to approve…I am working in Israel/Palestine at the moment and access to the internet is not reliable. I of course welcome critical comments.

      Steve

      Like

      • Peter Nkosi

        Mr Steve,
        My goodness, that is the first time for me to hear of an internet connection which is worse than what I have in this Malawian village. I do not really understand how mine works, but it is through a dongle-thing which connects to the cell phone network.

        Thanks for the chance to respond to Ms Carrie’s article.

        Like

  3. Peter Nkosi

    I am writing this from Malawi. I am not going to argue with the LGBT aspects of this article, but I cannot let the defamation of Malawi go unanswered. The author, Carrie Lyall, has admitted on her own blog that:

    “I have never been to Malawi, I don’t know what it is like to live as a gay person there …” & “I do not know the reasons for her deportation or the intricacies of her application.” & “The (homosexual) prosecution … is indeed the only one I know of.” She also writes in her article, “For me, it’s not about whether or not Angeline is telling the truth”.

    How then can she write the following paragraph in this article? (The capitalised words are just for emphasis, not shouting.):
    “There have been SEVERAL high profile cases that have highlighted the problems that people like Angeline face in Malawi, including IMPRISONMENT, POLICE VIOLENCE and EXCLUSION FROM HOUSING AND HEALTH SERVICES. Angeline fears her children will be taken away by her ex-husband and says she’s scared they are in danger of female genital mutilation at the hands of his family.”

    IN RESPONSE TO THE SECOND SENTENCE:

    Mwafulirwa alleges that her daughters are at risk of FGM in Malawi, but does not tell us in which areas of the country it is practiced, or how extensive it is. Here in Tumbukaland, the home of the Mwafulirwa (general) family, we know completely nothing about this practice. On the other hand, from Human Rights Reports and UK newspaper articles I can see that FGM is practiced in UK, and is not prosecuted .

    Mwafulirwa further alleges that the father and his family will take away her children. Snatching them like that is illegal under the Constitution and Family Law; she can be granted custody of her children in courts such as you have there in UK. The Police have a Victim Support Unit, and there is a Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Welfare. Both of these bodies can advise her on how to present her case. Additionally, there are local, human rights organisations who would be tripping over themselves to assist her.

    IN RESPONSE TO THE FIRST SENTENCE:

    From a little googling, I see that all of the capitalised words, in very similar phrases, are trotted out repeatedly by LGBT activists in supporting asylum bids by nationals from countries all over the World, and not just Malawi. With regard to police violence, exclusion from housing and health services, Ms Lyall seem to know more about that than I do living in Malawi.

    Ms Lyall could have written her article and made exactly the same points by referring to Mwafulirwa as, say, Angela from Africa.

    I cannot run away from the fact that homosexual acts in Malawi are illegal. However, there has been only a single, completely-stupid prosecution by the authorities, and the couple spent several months in detention before being pardoned . Does a single case not strike you as odd in a country of 15 million, where there must be hundreds or thousands of homosexual acts every day. Does it not suggest that there is a degree of tolerance towards homosexuality? And yes, I agree that it is one prosecution and detention too many.

    Like

  4. anyawhiteside

    Great article!

    Like

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