Sexuality Persecution Grounds for Asylum Court Rules
365Gay.com, December 9, 2003
Sydney, Australia Bureau
By Peter Hacker
Sydney, Australia—A gay
Bangladesh couple has won a landmark judgment in Australia’s High Court
which ruled persecution over sexuality could be grounds for refugee status.
The men fled Bangladesh, where homosexuality is illegal,
in February 1999. Australia’s Refugee Review Tribunal ruled they were not
entitled to refugee status saying that because they could keep their sexuality
secret by being closeted there was no proof they would be imprisoned on their
Their names cannot be published under Australian law.
The men, who lived together in Bangladesh from 1994, said
they had been ostracized by their families and had been mobbed and beaten over
their sexual orientation.
The Tribunal’s ruling was upheld in the Federal Court.
But the High court disagreed. The 4-3 decision, in which openly gay justice
Michael Kirby found with the majority, said that gay asylum-seekers fleeing
sexual persecution on a par with people fleeing religious or political
The court also ordered the government to pay all costs in
The ruling means the case will now return to the Tribunal
where it is expected the men will be granted permanent asylum.
“We are grateful to the court, to our lawyers and to
Australia,” one of the men told The Australian newspaper. “We want to live
here for the rest of our lives.”
It is believed that Canada is the only other country
which grants asylum to people fleeing homophobic persecution.
The couple’s lawyer, Bruce Levet, predicted the
judgment would have a wide impact.
“Refugee decision-makers all over the world follow each
other’s rulings, and the outcome in this case has the potential to influence
decisions in all countries that accept refugees,” Levet said.
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