During 16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children, the Legal Resources Centre will be sharing the stories of survivors of gender based violence who fled their countries to seek asylum in South Africa. Many women, children and sexual and gender non-conforming persons endure horrific hardship, sexual persecution, assault, rape and discrimination in their countries. When they arrive in South Africa their hardship does not end. Some women experience sexual persecution while crossing the border, while others may experience oppression, intolerance and discrimination while trying to create a life in South Africa. When they enter the asylum seeker process, they often endure further persecution. These are their stories.
Gay in the DRC
K is a gay man who was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo. He suffered persecution at the hands of his family and community for being in a homosexual relationship with another man. He was forced to conceal his sexuality because it is illegal to conduct an openly gay relationship in the DRC and K had witnessed a friend stoned to death at University.
K’s brother-in-law discovered him and his lover one day and became so incensed that he locked the door to the house and proceeded towards the kitchen to get a knife and threatened to hurt them. K managed to escape and went to the police to report the incident. He told them the details of what had happened but struggled to admit his sexuality to the police. Finally, as fearful as he was, he admitted his sexual orientation to the police, who laughed at him and told him that he deserved to die for his actions. He quickly left the police station and went to his friend’s house to spend the night. The next day, K was told that the friend’s business had been ransacked and vandalised. K was convinced that his life was in danger and his friends advised him to flee to safety in South Africa.
K arrived in South Africa in June 2010. He applied for asylum and was interviewed by a Refugee Status Determination Officer. The interview consisted of questions interrogating K as to why he was gay and whether he knew that being gay was a sin before God. The RSDO noted in the decision that K had left his country of origin due to discrimination suffered, but failed to expand on the nature of the discrimination suffered.
The RSDO rejected his asylum claim. He approached the Legal Resources Centre and was assisted to make submissions to the Standing Committee of Refugee Affairs. The LRC explained why he should have been granted refugee status in light of both his personal experiences of persecution and the objective country assessment of the DRC, where homosexuality is criminalised. As of January 2014, Amnesty International indicated that same-sex relations were illegal in 36 countries in Africa. Chad could become the 37th.
K cannot openly live as a gay man in the DRC without suffering persecution. He should not be expected to hide his sexuality which, in itself, would amount to persecution. Unfortunately, the SCRA rejected these arguments. The LRC filed a review application in the Western Cape High Court and hope for a more humane outcome.