The 28-nation bloc’s top court ruled today that refugees facing imprisonment in their home country—because they are gay—may have grounds to be granted asylum in the European Union.
To update: “Political asylum is the right to seek shelter somewhere if one has a reasonable fear of persecution.” It’s an ancient concept that dates back to ancient Greece – which respected the right to asylum and legislated this principal.
The Luxembourg-based European Court of Justice said: “The existence of laws allowing the imprisonment of homosexuals “may constitute an act of persecution per se, if they are routinely enforced.”
The court ruled on three cases of t people from Sierra Leone, Uganda, and Senegal—all seeking asylum in the Netherlands.
More than 70 countries worldwide have laws that criminalize people on the basis of sexual orientation. (We’re talking to you Russia!) According to the International Commission of Jurists: The laws typically prohibit either certain types of sexual activity or contain a blanket ban on intimacy and sexual activity between members of the same sex.
In a bizarre twist, bay and lesbian people seeking asylum in the UK must first “prove” their sexuality. In some cases this involves being made to hand over photographic and video evidence of “highly personal sexual activity.”
In the past, European countries had the opinion that those seeking asylum would be safe if they stay home and stay in the closet. A few past cases:
-In Hungary, a court weighed the case of a West African woman: Their astute conclusion: “If she would not make her lesbianism public, she would not have to fear the consequences of her behavior.”
-Switzerland turned down a gay Iranian man’s request. Their reasoning: Homosexuality is tolerated in Iran “when it is not publicly exposed in a way which could be offensive.”
-Two years ago, the British Supreme Court rejected the idea of hiding one’s sexuality. Their comparison: Sending them back to their native countries is like sending Anne Frank back to her Amsterdam attic.
-Samira Ghorbani Danesh fled Iran after police who took her girlfriend away. In Iranian law, homosexual acts between women are to be punished with whippings. After the fourth offense, it’s punishable by death.