The UK government has just told LGBTQ people to ‘pretend’ they’re straight

LGBTQ+ Ballooons
Steve Topple

Human rights groups have slammed the British government for telling LGBTQ people to ‘pretend’ to be straight if they face persecution because of their sexuality.

Put up or shut up

The Home Office has released new guidance [pdf] surrounding the treatment of Afghan LGBTQ asylum seekers. In Afghanistan, campaigners say, it is essentially still illegal to be gay. And the Taliban considers homosexuality a crime punishable by death.

The UK guidance says [pdf p8] that, for example, deported gay men with “feminine traits” should go to the Afghan capital Kabul. Because a:

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practising gay man who… would not attract or seek to cause public outrage, would not face a real risk of persecution.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office also insists [pdf p.13] that “the only option for a homosexual individual… would be to conceal their sexual orientation to avoid punishment”.

According to Human Rights Watch (HRW) in Afghanistan, same-sex relations are punishable by five to 15 years in prison. And the punishment for sex outside marriage could be a death sentence.

LGBTQ+ persecution

Heather Barr from HRW says the government is telling asylum seekers to “pretend you’re straight, move to Kabul and best of luck”. Other campaigners, meanwhile, claim the government is in breach of UN refugee law. But the Home Office said:

Where someone is found to be at risk of persecution… in their country of origin because of their sexuality or gender identity, refuge will be granted

It is bad enough that the government is deporting refugee children to Afghanistan, which is still a war zone. But sending LGBTQ people back to a country with such an appalling human rights record, while essentially advising them to pretend they’re straight, is callous in the extreme.

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– Read more from The Canary on Afghanistan.

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