Six Countries Leading Gays to Seek Asylum in the U.S.

While gays in the U.S. celebrate the fall of DODT, DOMA and the expansion of marriage equality, much of the global LGBT population continue to suffer under foreign governments that persecute, condemn, criminalize, torture and oppress those who dare to love members of the same sex. Recent news from Russia and Uganda has brought these practices into the limelight and many Americans are asking what the U.S. government can do to help gays and lesbians from these nations.

For those foreign gays who are currently in the U.S. or those who can find their way to the U.S. on non-immigrant visas, asylum might be an option. The U.S. government will grant asylum to gays and lesbians who have suffered persecution, or who have a well-founded fear of future persecution on account of their sexual orientation.  The following are 6 countries, whose treatment of gays, as reported by our own Department of State, would likely support an asylum claim in the U.S.

Uganda

On February 24th, 2014, President Museveni signed into a law an anti-gay bill which toughened penalties for gays and could lead to life in prison for homosexual acts which had already been criminalized. According to the U.S. State Department, “LGBT persons faced discrimination and legal restrictions…LGBT persons were subject to societal harassment, discrimination, intimidation, and threats to their well-being, and were denied access to health services. Discriminatory practices also prevented local LBGT NGOs from registering with the NGO Board and obtaining official status.”

Russia

The Sochi Olympics and the actions of punk protest band, Pussy Riot gave recently helped expose the mistreatment of Russian Gays. The Russian parliament recently passed a law banning gay propaganda and Moscow has refused to allow Gay Pride parades. The U.S. State Department reports that openly gay men have been attacked by neo-Nazis with police failing to respond. Gay men and women hide their orientation due to fear of losing their jobs or their homes as well as the threat of violence and medical practitioners reportedly continued to limit or deny LGBT persons health services due to intolerance and prejudice.

Gambia

Gambian President, Yahya Jammeh has called homosexuality a threat to human existence and “more deadly than all natural disasters put together.” Male homosexual acts are illegal and punishable with five to 14 years in prison. According to the U.S. State Department, “There was strong societal discrimination against LGBT individuals, further enhanced by statements by President Jammeh and the enforcement of a law, nicknamed Operation Bulldozer, designed to enforce harsh penalties for criminals but also directed at gay men. There were no LGBT organizations in the country.”

 

Ukraine

This week, President Viktor Yanukovych of Ukraine stepped down following massive protests. However, it is yet unclear whether any new government would be any kinder to Ukraine’s LGBT population who has suffered under persecution both by the government and the society. The LGBT population has experienced discrimination in education, the workplace and access to medical treatment. Like Russia, Ukraine’s parliament has sought to pass a law against “homosexual propaganda.” Rights organizations have found that LGBT individuals faced “physical violence, abuse, threats, property damage, theft, extortion, bullying, workplace discrimination, discrimination in educational settings, and divulging of personal information.”

Jamaica

In 2006, an article in TIME magazine called Jamaica “The most homophobic place on earth.” Today, Jamaican gays continue to suffer persecution on account of their sexual orientation. Though the government has recently stated that they will be reviewing the law, homosexual acts continue to be illegal in Jamaica punishable by up to 10 years in prison.  A culture of homophobia is perpetuated by popular music and religion and physical violence against gays is widespread. “The Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All Sexuals, and Gays (J-FLAG) reported serious human rights abuses, including assault with deadly weapons, “corrective rape” of women accused of being lesbians, arbitrary detention, mob attacks, stabbings, harassment of gay and lesbian patients by hospital and prison staff, and targeted shootings of such persons. Police often did not investigate such incidents.”

Kyrgyz Republic

The Central Asian nation was formerly under the U.S.S.R. and like other countries in the region remains a bastion for gay persecution. Despite decriminalizing homosexual relations in 1998, human rights organizations have found that police officers continue to arrest individuals for homosexuality.  LGBT persons face physical and verbal abuse, possible loss of work, and unwanted attention from police and authorities. Human Rights Watch recently published a 65 page report highlighting the abuse of gay men in Kyrgyz Republic who suffered severe physical violence including punching, kicking, and beating with gun butts, batons, empty beer bottles, or other objects.

The latest State Department Human Rights Reports are available here: http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/

Further research can be found at the following organization websites: Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission.