Indra fled Nepal to escape persecution for being gay. Gay sex is not illegal in Nepal, however it remains a strictly conservative country.
Fighting for the right to stay in the UK for many years now, in his most recent court case, the UK Immigration tribunal outed him by hearing his case at the same time as other Nepali people.
Indra is now scared for his life. Faced with the prospect of returning to Nepal where he’ll face forced marriage or even worse – reprisals for being gay.
‘My life will be at risk if I get sent back, my family might kill me,’ he tells GSN. ‘They expect me to be a man by getting married and giving them grandchildren. They are homophobic and use gay slurs a lot.’
Now, his husband ‘William’ has decided to speak out too.
William was in court with his husband when he was outed. He is appalled by the way the case has been handled.
He says: ‘Through carelessness, they have shown a readiness to put my husband’s life at risk.’
In response, an HM Courts and Tribunals Service spokesperson says:
‘In the Upper Tribunal Immigration and Asylum Chamber, parties may apply for anonymity. If granted, names do not appear online or displayed at the tribunal venue. It is then for the judge to decide on the conduct of a hearing and who can attend.’
Is the system at fault?
Because of the anonymity order Indra had, he went in expecting a private hearing. However, the spokesperson for HM Courts and Tribunals says you have to apply for these.
Both William, who is a UK LGBTI activist, and Nepali LGBTI activists take issue with this.
They believe a system which automatically has open hearings for those with anonymity orders – is fundamentally flawed.
Parsu Ram Rai from the Nepali LGBTI organization, Blue Diamond Society, tried to raise issues around gay Nepali men in other similar cases last year.
‘We raised our serious concerns officially last summer in a letter’ Rai says. ‘We sent a set of questions to the service director general, and never even received an acknowledgment. Now we learn that in a British Immigration Tribunal, vulnerable gay people are being outed through carelessness?’
Speaking directly about this case, he says: ‘This confirms our worst fears and suspicions about the current UK immigration service approach to Nepali LGBT and attitudes to LGBT people.’
William has now lodged a complaint with the All Party Parliamentary Group for LGBT and the Home Affairs Select Committee.
He is calling for them to conduct full, comprehensive and independent research into why courts can be allowed to out people.
Life in limbo
William and his husband are exhausted, struggling with depression and unemployment because of the visa application process. He is now supporting himself, his ill mother and husband, mainly through self-employment.
‘We are left feeling devastated after another visa refusal,’ William explains. ‘For two and a half years we’ve barely slept due to the stress and fears of the process.’
Indra’s doctors say the severe medical conditions that leave him in a great deal of pain are stress-related.
‘It feels like we have no future, it’s been a grueling process. We’ve been doing everything right and following the process. It’s a horror what the UK has allowed to happen to us. We live in fear for our future.’
What is life like for Nepal’s LGBTI community?
This case is particularly tricky because, in the eyes of the UK Immigration system, Nepal laws do not make being LGBTI illegal.
Gay sex was decriminalized in 2007 and trans people have the right to have their preferred gender display on their identity cards. The Nepalese constitution bans discrimination on any grounds, including sex and sexual orientation.
However, Sunil Babu Pant who founded the Nepali LGBT organization Blue Diamond society says this does not reflect the actual situation in the country.
‘The international community assume that because the new constitution doesn’t make being LGBTI illegal, everything is fine. But you risk your safety if you come out in Nepal. It may not be as direct as say Iran or Egypt. But it gets impossible to live.’
Pant has also been through his own painful UK Visa application process.
‘The attitude looking towards same-sex relationships without doubt – is discriminatory. They don’t believe it can be genuine.
Pant calls this idea of people who ‘play gay’ and fake their sexuality to stay ‘a myth the UK immigration system has to get over.’
Adding: ‘Nobody uproots their lives leaving their family and homeland unless there is a compelling difficulty.’
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