Betty Tibakawa is a young lesbian from Uganda who fled to the UK, because in her own country she was violently attacked because of her sexuality.
Three men abducted her, kicked her in the stomach, and branded her inner thighs with hot irons. Her injuries were so severe she could not leave her home for two months.
The UK immigration system wants to send her back to Uganda where they say she is “not at risk of harm”.
Uganda has some of the most repressive anti-LGBT laws in the world. Huge international pressure only just managed to adjourn a law that would have made homosexuality (currently incurring a fourteen year prison sentence) a crime warranting the death sentence.
The bill would also have given the government power to extradite people engaged in sexual acts with the same sex whilst abroad, given penalties to any companies, media outlets or NGOs which supported LGBT rights, and given the death penalty to anyone who was HIV-positive.
David Kato, a teacher and prominent LGBT rights activist in Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), was recently murdered after an article by Ugandan tabloid Rolling Stone called on people to murder homosexuals, and named and photographed Kato, amongst 100 others. In February 2011, the magazine Red Pepper published a similar article, which outed Betty as a lesbian. Her name and photograph have been made public, and her family have disowned her.
Despite the clear evidence that Betty would face severe terror, injury, imprisonment or death if she returned to Uganda, she is now in Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre facing deportation.
The UK Border Agency claims that Betty has fabricated her lesbianism, and dispute whether the injuries she suffered were caused because of homophobia, despite their findings having clearly ruled out the possibility of self-harm.
Betty said of her situation: “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, and they kiss at the bus stops and on the bus. You know, it’s 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 don’t even know how to. I just can’t. I just 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.”
• To sign the petition to prevent the deportation of Betty Tibakawa, please visit: bit.ly/jRf0bZ