Ugandan lesbian given refugee status in Japan after passage anti-homosexuality bill

A Ugandan woman who fled to Japan to evade persecution in her home country for being a lesbian was granted refugee status by the Osaka District Court after the Japanese government declined to file an appeal.

The Mainichi reported that the Japanese government was given until March 29 to file an appeal that would have sent the woman’s case to a higher court. However, the Immigration Services Agency of Japan is set to recognize the 30-year-old woman as a refugee.

The lawyer representing the woman, Maya Kawasaki, said: “The court ruling on her refugee status was based on a series of concrete facts, and it is natural that (the Japanese government) has not appealed. I hope the immigration agency will quickly carry out the procedures.”

The Mainichi noted that this was the first case that a sexual minority claiming persecution in their home country was granted refugee status in Japan through an official judicial verdict.

The woman allegedly arrived in Japan in early 2020 with a passport that had been issued through a broker, but she was remanded at the Osaka Regional Immigration Services Bureau. 

The court’s final ruling was influenced by confirmation that the woman was arrested in Uganda in 2017 for being homosexual and was subsequently beaten with a stick by a police officer. As a result, the court decided that the woman be granted refugee status for her home country maintaining discriminatory behavior toward homosexuals, noting that the woman would likely face persecution if she was turned away. 

Uganda’s Parliament recently passed a draconian bill earlier this month against homosexuality, with Time Magazine reporting that “it also outlaws the ‘promotion of homosexuality’ with a prison sentence of up to 20 years for anyone who advocates for LGBTQ rights or provides financial support to organizations that do so.”

The African country’s move to severely criminalize homosexuals has drawn the ire from organizations around the world. John Kirby, spokesman for the National Security Council, has expressed the potential for financial repercussions if the bill is signed into law. Volker Türk, the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, has urged Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni not to push the bill through.

However, Museveni has already expressed support for the bill. He has 30 days to sign the bill into law, per Time Magazine.

Türk said: “If signed into law by the President, it will render lesbian, gay and bisexual people in Uganda criminals simply for existing, for being who they are. It could provide carte blanche for the systematic violation of nearly all of their human rights and serve to incite people against each other.”

It remains to be seen whether Museveni will follow through with the regressive bill.


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