No Refugee Status for Gay Ugandans, Says Namibia

by Winnie McCroy
EDGE Editor
Thursday Apr 17, 2014

If LGBT Ugandans are searching for a way to leave their oppressive country, they can cross Namibia off their list. That country's Commissioner for Refugees Nkrumah Mushelenga told the Namibian Sun newspaper that gay and lesbian Ugandans will never be granted refugee status in his country.

"Our domestic refugee law does not have a provision granting refugee status for being gay. And we will never do that," Mushelenga told the Sun.

He said Ugandan gays should not waste their time coming here, as they will not qualify to become refugees on the basis of their sexuality.

"We will not accept them. They are not part of the criteria we use," he said. "The law is clear on who qualifies to be granted refugee status," and LGBTs are not among protected classes.

The statement comes on the heels of the case of a gay Ugandan refugee who Gay Star News reports has been held in jail at the Narraville Police Station in Walvis Bay while trying to seek asylum in Namibia, where gay sex is technically illegal but the law is rarely enforced.

Mushelenga's statement raised hackles among LGBT groups in the country, who say he is not following Namibia's laws and is failing human rights obligations by not permitting asylum.

"Mushelenga exhibits gross ignorance of the Namibian Constitution and this country's jurisprudence," said former Mr. Gay Namibia winner Wendelinus Hamutenya at an April 16 press conference. "Article 97, read together with Article 10, of the Namibian Constitution, which Mushelenga seeks to misinterpret, strictly prohibits denial of asylum in Namibia on account of 'membership of a particular social group.' Little does Mushelenga seem to know that 'a social group' includes a gay group."

In addition, NamRights spokesperson Phil ya Nangoloh pointed to several court rulings that had found that gay refugees could seek asylum in Namibia and warned that Namibia would be failing its international human rights obligations by failing to allow them to.

"Refoulement of asylum seekers from Namibia is absolutely forbidden in terms of Article 3 of the 1984 UN Convention against Torture to which Namibia is party," Ya Nangoloh said. "Hence, any attempt to deport asylum seekers from Namibia merely on the account of their sexual orientation will be set aside by any competent court in Namibia."

Winnie McCroy is the Women on the EDGE Editor, HIV/Health Editor, and Assistant Entertainment Editor for EDGE Media Network, handling all women's news, HIV health stories and theater reviews throughout the U.S. She has contributed to other publications, including The Village Voice, Gay City News, Chelsea Now and The Advocate, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.


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