S. Chelvan has just returned from Kampala, having been invited by the Refugee Law Project to participate as a keynote speaker at the 13th IASFM (International Association for the Study of Forced Migration) conference, hosted by the University of Mekere in Uganda (http://www.iasfmconference.org/index.php?conference=iasfm13&schedConf=iasfm13&page=schedConf&op=overview). As part of a panel of three, Chelvan spoke about the UK’s response to forced migration, namely asylum, from those fleeing persecution on the basis of being Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans or Intersex (LGBTI), from countries where they face a real risk of ill-treatment on the basis of their sexual or gender identity. The title of the plenary session before the 400 delegates from the academic, activist, advocacy and even governing field was “Governance, Gender, Sexuality and Forced Migration”. It was highly relevant that his speech was being given in Uganda, a country which has seen a surge in persecution of gay men and lesbians following the introduction of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in October 2009. Ugandan LGBTI asylum seekers seek asylum in countries which include the United Kingdom.
“Whilst I was there, a trans activist associated with the Refugee Law Project had to escape his home, after it was set alight by an angry mob who refused to allow him to live in the neighbourhood, because of his difference – he is now hiding in a ‘safe house’. Who was I to feel afraid, when Ugandan LGBTI activists were risking their lives? I very much felt inspired and empowered by the vital work they are engaged in, and the conference gave me an opportunity to highlight how much progress the UK has made in the past year in understanding and recognising such claims. My message to receiving nations was clear – to progress we must litigate, litigate and litigate.”
The visit to Uganda followed a recent UK success, where the Upper Tribunal (Immigration and Asylum Chamber) allowed the appeal of a lesbian from Jamaica, in the Country Guidance case of SW (lesbians – HJ and HT applied) Jamaica CG [2011] UKUT 251 (http://www.bailii.org/uk/cases/UKUT/IAC/2011/00251_ukut_iac_2011_sw_jamaica_cg.html), on the 24th of June. The Tribunal accepted that lesbians, and those who are perceived as lesbians, are at real risk in Jamaica of curative rape and even murder. In extending the reasoning of the earlier Supreme Court landmark judgment in HJ (Iran) and HT (Cameroon) [2010] UKSC 31, the Upper Tribunal accepted that the reality involved the adoption of a ‘heterosexual narrative’ i.e. having children, a boyfriend and even marrying, to avoid risk. Along with the 2005 Country Guidance case of DW (Homosexual Men – Persecution – Sufficiency of Protection) Jamaica CG [2005] UKAIT 00168 (http://www.bailii.org/uk/cases/UKIAT/2005/00168.html) , where Chelvan acted as Counsel to a gay man from Jamaica, it is now accepted that gay men and lesbians (actual or perceived) are a protected refugee group. (‘Jamaican lesbian can stay in UK, tribunal rules’ BBC News 6 July 2011, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-stoke-staffordshire-14047505 and ‘Immigration judges grant Jamaican lesbian UK residency’ Pink News, 6 July 2011, http://news.pinkpaper.com/NewsStory/5663/6/07/2011/immigration-judges-grant-jamaican-lesbian-uk-residency.aspx ).
Later this year, as part of the Fleeing Homophobia: Seeking Safety in Europe project (http://www.rechten.vu.nl/nl/onderzoek/conferenties-en-projecten/conference-fleeing-homophobia/index.asp) , as UK country expert and expert to the Advisory Board, Chelvan will be speaking at the report launch in September at Vu University in Amsterdam, and has also been invited to attend as a keynote speaker at the regional meetings