Sophie Wilkinson | Contributing Editor | Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Nigerian Asylum Seeker Can't Be A Lesbian Because She Has Children Says Uk Home Office

The Debrief: Nigerian LGBT rights activist Aderonke Apata doesn’t count as an asylum seeker from a country where gay people are punished with jail time…

As well as a crap notion of sex education, an inability to hold to account its previous child sex abuse rings, and a weird attitude towards women squirting and face-sitting, the UK government’s shown just how weird and stuffy it is in its attitudes towards sex by just not getting what being bisexual or a lesbian is.

See, Aderonke Apata is an LBGBT rights activist. She moved to the UK from Nigeria in 2004 and is now seeking asylum here. Why? Well, in an increasingly conservative Nigeria, as of January 2014 it is illegal to be gay; the punishment is imprisonment, and on a less official scale, the fear of vigilante attacks is high.

However, Andrew Bird, the lawyer for the Home Secretary Theresa May, yesterday told a court that the UK would be happy to deport Ms. Apata because, well, she doesn’t seem gay to him.

Apparently Ms. Apata was ‘not part of the social group known as lesbians’. Here we were, thinking that sexuality isn’t a social group, it’s a thing you’re born with, like freckles or the – helpful in this neck of the woods – ability to roll your tongue.

He conceded Ms. Apata had ‘indulged in same-sex activity’, but because she has children and has had previous relationships with men: ‘You can’t be a heterosexual one day and a lesbian the next day. Just as you can’t change your race.’

Um, sorry... did this guy miss the memo that there are plenty of a) lesbians who don’t realise they’re gay until really late in the game, especially those who live in countries where it just isn’t accepted to ‘come out’ b) bisexual women who can find people of either sex attractive?

Abid Mahmood, Ms. Apata’s lawyer, said, quite rightly, that: ‘Some members of the public may have those views but it doesn’t mean a government department should be putting these views forward in evidence.’

He added: ‘There is evidence of the genuineness of her case, that she will be picked out as a lesbian if she is returned.’

The government is allowed to grant people asylum on the basis of their sexuality, if it is one that could mean they’re persecuted or punished in their home country. However, the Home Office has got a bad record on dealing with these sorts of cases, with some asylum seekers feeling so lost and desperate they’ve submitted home-recorded DVDs of themselves having sex with their partners to prove they’re gay.

Until the EU banned the tests, LGBT asylum seekers have had to undergo quizzes to ‘prove’ their sexuality, like knowing stuff about 19th Century writer Oscar Wilde or answering ‘sexually intrusive’ questions about their sexuality like ‘what do you get from a homosexual relationship you can’t get from a heterosexual relationship’ and ‘Did you put your penis into X’s backside?’

For what it’s worth, Ms. Apata is in a relationship with a woman called Happiness Agboro; they’re engaged and were holding hands at the court yesterday.

She said outside of court, reports The Independent: ‘The Home Office has treated me badly from day one. Staying in Britain means staying safe, staying with my partner and continuing my campaigning’

Unfortunately there’s a lot of damaging stereotypes to be undone first.

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Tags: LGBT, Nigeria