Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Indian High Court ruling unlikely to have an impact on prejudice: tribunal

The Refugee Review Tribunal has said that the Indian High Court ruling in July 2009 in effect decriminalizing homosexual acts there is "unlikely to have any immediate impact either now or in the reasonably foreseeable future" as to how Indians generally regard homosexuality and that the  ruling is "unlikely to make any identifiable change to [prejudice against homosexuality] either now or in the reasonably foreseeable future".

It also said that there is no part of India to which an applicant for refugee status  "could reasonably be expected to relocate where he would be safe from the persecution which he fears".

The tribunal did so in an application by an Indian man from Kerala, in southern India, for refugee status.

The decision, called 0907630, also highlighted myths and misconceptions about gay people in Australia, particularly for those who are suddenly free from oppression overseas:

The [Department of Immigration and Citizenship official] further stated that it would be "expected" that I would fully embrace the freedom to engage in homosexual activities in Australia and that I had "provided no credible evidence that [I] had any sexual relationships with men in Australia since [my] arrival over three months ago". In my previous statement, I mentioned that I met a man once at an RSL club in [Australia]. In her decision record, the [official] claimed that I had given "vague testimony" of this encounter. Again, I did not feel entirely comfortable talking about it.

What happened was that we began talking and he suggested that we go outside to relax. He revealed that he was also interested in gay relations and I thought that he was interested in me. I felt comfortable enough with him to open up and I told him about my situation and how I was applying for refugee status. After that, he seemed to be uncomfortable and said that he had to go. He said he would call me but never did.

Although I was happy to finally be in a country where I could be open about my homosexuality, it does not mean that overnight I would turn into a promiscuous person willing to engage in homosexual activities with any man that I met. I do not think it is right to assume that, just because I am gay, I should be expected to have had more than one gay encounter over the course of three months. Most of the people with whom I had sexual relationships in India were men I had known over a period of time, whom I trusted, not strangers I met on the street. Moreover, I still keep in contact with [Person N] and I still have feelings for him so it is difficult for me to be with other men. (emphasis added)

The applicant was a member of the Kerala Latin Catholic Church. The persecution of him in Kerala started after he was sprung in a compromising position with another candidate in the seminary. He was kicked out of the seminary. At the urging of his parents, he was counselled by a priest. His parents were then targetted because the applicant was gay.

The applicant's statement about being Catholic and gay is telling:

I know that the Catholic Church does not condone homosexuality but Jesus himself never said that homosexuality is illegal. I did not decide to be homosexual - it is just part of me. By being gay, I am not doing anything wrong. I do not believe that being gay goes against Christianity, like being a murderer and a rapist, does. I am not harming anybody by being gay.

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