#Human Rights
The Home Office and UK Border Agency
United Kingdom

*Trigger warning*

Betty Tibakawa, a young lesbian living in Uganda, had gone for a walk on the beach when she was approached by three men she did not know, but who knew her by reputation, who began taunting her about her sexuality. They took her to a disused building where she was violently assaulted. The men kicked her in the stomach, pinned her down and branded her inner thighs with hot irons. She lost consciousness and when she woke up, the men were gone. Her injuries were so severe that she could not leave her home for two months.

In February, Ugandan magazine Red Pepper outed Betty as a lesbian, publishing an article about her illustrated with photos, and the claim that she is ‘wanted’ for being a lesbian. It has become incredibly dangerous for her to return to Uganda, where she has been disowned by her family and faces the risk of violent persecution for being gay. As a named lesbian, she is at risk of being targeted for her sexuality, experiencing further violence, imprisonment or even death. Betty has gone from being a bubbly young woman with a bright future at university, to being withdrawn, feeling worthless, frightened and depressed.

Betty Tibakawa has had her asylum application turned down and is facing deportation back to Uganda, where homosexuality is illegal. Gay women who are deported to Uganda risk being raped and assaulted whilst they are in custody. We are petitioning the Home Office to overrule this decision from the UK Border Agency, to give Betty the chance to live a life free from violence and fear. No one should be deported to country where they will be persecuted for their sexuality. We owe those seeking asylum in this country better than this.

*Trigger warning*

We the undersigned ask you to re-consider and overturn the UK Border Agency decision to deport 22 year old Betty Tibakawa to Uganda, where she faces homophobic persecution. We ask you to give asylum to Betty Tibakawa.

Uganda is now considered to be the most dangerous place in the world if you are homosexual, transgender, or believed to be homosexual or transgender. The recent murder of gay activist David Kato has brought further international attention to the danger gay men, lesbians, and trans people face in Uganda. Yet despite the overwhelming evidence showing that Betty Tibakawa will face a life of violence and fear in her home country of Uganda, she is now in Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre facing deportation from the place she sought safety and asylum.

As a lesbian teenager in Uganda, Betty Tibakawa was violently assaulted by three men who kicked her in the stomach and hit her. Two of the men held her down and the third branded her inner thighs with an iron, leaving her unconscious and unable to leave the house for two months. The scars on one of her legs is consistent with being branded with an iron. The scar on the second leg is diagnostic with being branded with an iron. We are concerned that continued detention in Yarl’s Wood is detrimental to her mental health; she is showing symptoms of PTSD, as well as being very depressed, frightened and afraid of deportation.

There is compelling evidence to suggest that Betty Tibakawa will face more violence on her return to Uganda. Homosexuality is illegal in Uganda and we know that lesbians are at risk of being raped and assaulted whilst in custody. Betty has already suffered horrific injuries and torture as a result of her sexuality being known in Uganda, and risks facing more violence if she returns.

Despite this, the UK Border Agency have responded by saying that Betty Tibakawa has fabricated a claim to be gay and will be deported, even though the medical report confirms that the assault where Betty sustained her injuries was very likely to have happened as Betty described. The report ruled out self harm as a possible cause. The UKBA do not dispute that a hot iron caused Betty’s injuries, but they claim that Betty did not suffer ill treatment whilst living in Uganda and so can be deported. Because Betty Tibakawa has been outed as a lesbian by a Ugandan magazine, it could be argued that it doesn’t matter whether she is a lesbian or not. She is believed to be a lesbian in Uganda, and therefore her human rights, welfare and life are at risk if she returns.

‘I look at a community like in Central London, I see so many of them. I see gay guys. They walk in the street, they hold hands, they kiss at the bus stops. On the bus. You know, its free, so it’s not hard for me to tell them I’m a lesbian. But in Uganda, I can’t say that. I really can’t. I just have to, I don’t even know how to. I just can’t. I just can’t. I can’t. I can’t. I don’t want to live, not being able to live as me. I don’t wanna be someone else just because of the situation around me. I just want to live truly, and just live like me. That’s really what I want.’ - Betty Tibakawa

A change to UK law last year means that the UKBA is no longer allowed to send lesbians, gay men, or trans people back to countries where they face homophobic or transphobic persecution with the advice to live discreetly. And yet we are once more confronted with a case where a woman is being sent back to a life of violence and fear due to her sexuality.

For the UKBA to replace one bad practice, deportation with the order to live discreetly, with another, the refusal to believe that any asylum claimants are genuinely homosexual, is a worrying step in the wrong direction. Human rights campaigners have pointed to Betty’s case as further proof that the UKBA continues to refuse to take homophobic violence and persecution seriously.

This is your chance to take a stand against homophobia and transphobia; to prove that the UK takes gay, lesbian, and transgender asylum claimants seriously, and to give a young woman the chance to live the life she has the right to live: free from violence, free from fear and free from persecution.

Please re-consider the UK Border Agency’s decision and grant asylum to Betty Tibakawa.

The Stop the deportation of Betty Tibakawa, Home Office Reference Number T1167988 petition to The Home Office and UK Border Agency was written by Sian Norris and is in the category Human Rights at GoPetition.