for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality

Tackling homophobia in Scotland’s asylum system

Stonewall’s recommendations on policy and training

Consensual acts between same-sex adults are criminalised in 80 member states of the United Nations; homosexuality results in the death penalty in six of these countries. Lesbian, gay and bisexual people face execution, torture, rape and murder from people in their own community or from their government.  Six months ago Stonewall published No Going Back, groundbreaking research which showed those facing persecution in their home country because of their sexual orientation were facing significant and specific disadvantages and being routinely deported due to systemic discrimination in the asylum system.

Carl Watt, Director of Stonewall Scotland, addressed the Scottish Refugee Council's annual conference in Glasgow on Friday 29th October, outlining some examples of the deeply shocking abuse and persecution that lesbian, gay and bisexual people reported facing in many countries such as Uganda, Jamaica and Iran, and the specific disadvantages their UK asylum claims faced due to their sexual orientation.

Scottish Refugee Council’s conference, titled ‘A Fresh Start: The new Government’s agenda for reforming the asylum system in the UK’ looked at advances made by the new UK coalition government as well as its current review of the asylum process.

In July the Supreme Court ruled that it was no longer acceptable to return gay asylum seekers on the basis that by being discreet about their sexuality, they could lead a life that was "reasonably tolerable".The ruling will have a huge impact on other Scottish asylum seekers who have previously had their case denied on grounds that they could be ‘discreet’ in their home countries.

Observations from those interviewed for the research include:

  • ‘We’re beaten every day, chopped up, mugged, persecuted, abused. As long as you’re recognised, you’re victimised. Every day in fear. Tomorrow you might die.’ Harrison, Jamaican asylum-seeker
  • ‘They took me for spiritual cleansing, where people held me and pushed raw ground pepper into my vagina. If you’re unfortunate like me you get raped as well. But when men force themselves on you, you can’t tell anyone because you’ll bring more shame to the family.’  Femi, Nigerian asylum-seeker
  • ‘Gay people get beaten, stabbed and killed – a lot. They light them on fire and throw them in the river. Nobody’s going to do anything about it. I can’t go to the police. The police will arrest me because it’s illegal to be gay.’ Adebayo, Nigerian asylum-seeker
  • ‘My mother said I wish you die of AIDS. Homosexuals die of AIDS. It was a mistake I had you as a child.’ Johnson, Ugandan asylum-seeker


  • Stonewall Scotland campaigns for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality.
  • Full report at:, supported by Herbert SmithOn the 20th May 2010 two gay men in Malawi were sentenced to 14 years hard labour for ‘gross indecency’ in spite of claims that they had had no sexual contact. Malawi is one of the countries to which UKBA has returned gay asylum-seekers.
  • The programme of work for LGB and T equality published in June by the UK Government said ‘We will stop the deportation of asylum seekers who have had to leave particular countries because their sexual orientation or gender identification puts them at proven risk of imprisonment, torture or execution.’
  • Samira Ahmed and Channel 4 News won a 2009 Stonewall Award for her report on the ‘corrective rape’ of lesbians in South Africa. The judges singled out the report as a ‘shocking piece of television, which cast a light on discrimination suffered by lesbians, all too often overlooked in the media.

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For media enquiries in the first instance please contact Stonewall Scotland on 0131 474 8019 or email If you have an out of office media enquiry please call 07870 650 662.