That’s what Living Colour said in a song a few years back. But it seems that they might have been wrong.
I was surprised by the account of a recent decision of the Refugee Review Tribunal (discovered via Anonymous Lefty). Ali Humayun sought asylum on the basis that he was a bisexual Christian and would be persecuted if he was returned to Pakistan. He had commenced a relationship with a Mr Lorenzo after being detained in the Villawood detention centre.
Giles Short, the Refugee Review Tribunal member found:
… I do not accept that the Applicant is in fact bisexual in sexual orientation as he claims. I consider that his relationship with Mr Lorenzo is simply the product of the situation where only partners of the same sex are available and says nothing about his sexual orientation. I am not satisfied that the Applicant’s conduct in telling his family in Pakistan about his claimed bisexuality and his claimed relationship with Mr Lorenzo was engaged in otherwise than for the purpose of strengthening his claim to be a refugee… Since I do not accept that the Applicant is in fact bisexual in sexual orientation, as he claims … I do not accept that, if the Applicant returns to Pakistan now or in the reasonably foreseeable future, there is a real chance that he will be persecuted for reasons of his actual or perceived membership of the particular social group of homosexuals or bisexuals in Pakistan.
Huh? The Member accepted that Mr Humayun has had sexual relationships with both men and women, but then refused to accept that he was “really” bisexual? Seems a little illogical to me. Does it matter that the cause of Mr Humayun’s relationship with Mr Lorenzo is his incarceration? Does it matter that Mr Humayun’s relationship with Mr Lorenzo may be simply a casual one? I would suggest that neither of these things are relevant. What is important is whether Mr Humayun would be persecuted for entering into a relationship with Mr Lorenzo when he returns to Pakistan (regardless of the cause of the relationship and the duration and seriousness of it).
The concern seems to be that refugees should be deterred from entering into short term homosexual relationships simply to gain refugee status.
I have since looked at the decision of the Federal Magistrates’ Court which reviewed and upheld Mr Short’s determination, and it sheds more light on the real reasons behind the decision.
First, Mr Humayun also made an unconvincing argument that he had converted to Christianity after 9/11, but showed no knowledge of the Christian faith, and he did not realise that homosexuality was frowned upon by the church of which he claimed to be a member. Therefore, it seems that his credibility was limited. Secondly, Mr Humayun is a heroin addict.
It seems to me that Mr Short should have concluded either:
(a) that Mr Humayun had entered into a supposed homosexual relationship as a sham to gain refugee status, and his lack of credibility on the issue of his conversion to Christianity also cast doubt on his evidence with respect to his relationship with Mr Lorenzo; or
(b) that Mr Humayun was bisexual, but had over-emphasised the seriousness of his relationship with Mr Lorenzo for the purposes of his application.
If the conclusion is (b), even if Mr Humayun’s relationship with Mr Lorenzo is a casual one created by the circumstances of incarceration, there remains a question of whether he would be persecuted in Pakistan because of the relationship. You can’t say “He is bisexual, but it’s not “real” bisexuality, even though he has had a sexual relationship with a man.” It’s just a matter of definition.
The other question which springs to mind is – if the relationship was caused by the circumstances of incarceration, could Mr Humayun argue that the Australian government had “caused” his bisexuality and thus ought to wear the consequences…?
If I were a refugee who had been genuinely persecuted because of my homosexuality, I would be angry if Mr Humayun had cynically claimed to be bisexual and had entered into a relationship with Mr Lorenzo solely for the purposes of getting refugee status. On the other hand, if he was in a relationship with Mr Lorenzo for more genuine reasons (even if those reasons were created by circumstance) and he would be persecuted for it when he returned home, I would want to see him protected from persecution.
If the Australian government wants to give a message that false claims with regard to sexuality will not be tolerated, it would be better to just say it outright.