Touchstone staff and volunteers recently had the opportunity to hear the story of a gay asylum seeker from Uganda. To protect her identity, we have not included her name or photograph here.
At the time that she was growing up in Uganda, people simply did not talk about being gay, because it could cost your life. She did at a young age confide in one of her family members, but this actually led to her being abused and raped.
On discovering that she was pregnant, she spoke to an aunt about what had happened. She was taken to an abortion clinic, and told not to tell the story to anyone else.
Her response after this was to withdraw from life and keep her head down, thinking “If I can survive this, I can do anything.”
On coming to Britain as an asylum seeker, she felt this would be a new place to start her life again, but found that this wasn’t really the case. The only places she could turn for somewhere to live were within the Ugandan community, and the same prejudices existed there as back home. She would then find herself searching for other people in desperate need, in the hope that she could make some exchange with them in return for a place to stay.
In 2009 the law in Uganda changed, to say not only that being gay was illegal, but that it was also illegal not to inform on someone you suspected of being gay – creating an even greater climate of fear and suspicion.
Meanwhile, decisions on her refugee status have been delayed many times, and it seems that the requirements are constantly moving – that whatever information she provides, something more will always be asked of her.
She’s found some support through local organisations, including Touchstone, but her life remains one of not knowing if she will be legally accepted into the country that she has tried to make her home.