By Melanie Nathan, December 16, 2014.
The United Kingdom wants to deport a persecuted lesbian back to Uganda, where a harsh anti-LGBTI climate awaits, with the certainty of further state sanctioned persecution that will endanger her life.
Activists, worldwide have weighed in with letters and reports, in support of Judith Twikirize, 23, a known lesbian, in an attempt to save the young woman from deportation, while urging her release from detention and launching a campaign to raise funds for her renewed legal battle. In addition, within 72 hours, more than 1600 people signed a petition, urging the UK Government not to deport Judith.
The authorities in the United Kingdom have refused to believe that Judith is a lesbian, and that she was tortured because of her sexuality, despite the evidence of medical experts both in Yarlswood and Medical Justice. They also doubt her activism, despite evidence of her participation in LGBTI campaigns. Due to the fast tracking of her case, her detention, marginal legal representation, and exacerbated PTSD, Judith has suffered prejudice to her rights and been restricted from accumulating sufficient evidence to satisfy authorities.
Judith was subjected to torture and physical assault in Uganda, for being a lesbian. Her family could detect from an early age that she had such tendencies, due to her tomboyish behaviour. At age 10 she was taken to a witch doctor by her grandmother, to be exorcised. By cutting her deep with razors and forcing her to sleep in a house of spirits the demons, it was determined by the family and witchdoctor, that the evil that ’causes lesbianism’, would leave. This went on weekly for a year. After this she suffered other forms of persecution including a serious assault for being a lesbian. Judith’s account is supported by medical experts.
Now renowned activists, from around the world, are rallying to support Judith’s claims with several writing letters and reports in support of Judith, also confirming the fact that she is a known lesbian.
This includes an appeal from international award winning human rights defender Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera, of FARUG, known as the “founding mother” of Uganda’s Gay rights movement, a letter from Rev. Patrick Leubeun of St. Pauls Voice Centre, in Uganda, a detailed report from LGBTI advocate Melanie Nathan of African Human Rights Coalition, in San Francisco, a letter from renowned UK activist, Peter Tatchell, who Judith had accompanied on several protests, and also one from Metropolitan Community Church North London, Abbey Kiwanuka.
Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera, the founding mother of Uganda’s LGBTI movement, noted in her letter:
“The UK has been very supportive of the Uganda Gay rights movement and it will be an embarrassment that your office doesn’t live up to its expectations in protecting those that need the protection most from persecution. This is the time to show that you are not offering lip-service for PR in media. Judith’s deportation will be a betrayal to the support that you have continued to support those on the ground.”
Peter Tatchell, a prominent international Human rights activist said:
“I have interacted with Judith on various occasions and I believe she is a lesbian and she has engaged in high-profile, visible LGBT activism – Judith Twikirize would be at serious risk of persecution if she returned to Uganda. Both legal and social victimization – plus homophobic violence – are rife. There is a danger that she would be jailed, beaten or killed if she went back.”
Rev. Patrick Lueben, of St Pauls Voice Centre, Uganda, noted that Judith is known to him as a lesbian in Uganda:
“Please do not deport Judith Twikirize back to Uganda. As a community and as an organization we are struggling here to help LGBTI people who are in hiding and we do not have enough ways, money or resources to keep her safe. We do not have any humanitarian funding available to take care of a lesbian who will have to immediately go into hiding when she comes. There is no organization that can provide the help she will need. Even if we could, there is no guarantee she will not be found by police who can arrest her because of the fact she is a known lesbian. We will be unable to feed and shelter her to keep her safe, as we do not have resources to help us. “
As Melanie Nathan, Executive Director of African HRC, noted in her report:
“Mr. Potts (from Home Office) said in his grounds for refusal that he did not believe that Judith faced “a real risk of suffering serious harm on return from the UK”. However, the truth is that Mr. Pott’s assertions are ludicrous. Everyone and anyone who is LGBTI – gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender being forcibly returned to Uganda at this time absolutely faces a real risk of serious harm upon their return. His claim that there is “no reasonable fear of persecution,” is absolutely without merit and quite unjust in these circumstances.”
Out and Proud Diamond Group, of which Judith is member is determined to advocate for Judith to the last possible moment, noting:
“Judith Twikirize is now well known as a lesbian in Uganda, due to prior Red Pepper tabloid outings, her familial victimization, her activism against the anti-gay laws in Uganda and other Countries. This will be used to persecute her in Uganda if she returns. This could lead to mob vengeance, assaults, blackmail, impossibility to obtain a residence and work. She will be forced into hiding where there are no resources to sustain her. This deportation must be stopped and will be a shocking testament against the UK’s purported stand for LGBTI asylum seekers if it is not.”
Judith, who has been in detention since September 2014, is now applying for a judicial review of her case with the Upper Tribunal. She has also supplied more evidence to the Home Office. The medical experts both in Yarlswood detention centre and Medical Justice have confirmed that she is a victim of torture, urging her release based on the fact that this detention is only serving to exacerbate her post traumatic depression, noting that The Home Office guidelines regarding detention of asylum seekers, clearly state that victims of torture are not suitable for detention.
Judith’s legal aid representatives, who lost her case, have withdrawn from further representation, and OPDG has launched a fund drive to raise money for her legal fees at http://www.gofundme.com/j04rzc.
The full letter by Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera, can be read here at http://oblogdeeoblogda.me/2014/12/11/famed-ugandan-activist-urges-uk-home-office-not-to-deport-lesbian/
The 1600 signature Petition with links and updates can be found here: https://www.change.org/p/secretary-of-state-hon-theresa-may-mp-urgent-petition-to-stop-ugandan-lesbian-judith-s-deportation?utm_campaign=responsive_friend_inviter_chat&utm_medium=facebook&utm_source=share_petition&recruiter=23462939
About Out and Proud Diamond Group: See Website: http://opdg.org/ and Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/opdgroup Twitter @OUTandPROUD
UPDATED by Melanie Nathan: Dec18, 2014. Judith is being released right now from detention. She will continue to fight her case. Thanks to all who cam forward and answered the call for help. (See Facebook screenshot below.) AND
I would also like to thank the following people: MP Crispin Blunt and Lord Michael Cashman as well as Peter Campbell of Cardinal Solicitors in Forest gate London .