Asylum, rights and sexuality

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The Independent devoted its cover story today to Mehdi Kazemi, the gay teenager from Iran who sought sanctuary in Britain after his boyfriend was hanged for homosexuality and who now faces deportation back to Iran where he will almost certainly face the same fate.

This is outrageous behaviour by the British government which acknowledges that Iran criminalises homosexuality and imposes the death penalty on convicted homosexuals.

If our asylum policy is to serve any purpose then the Home Secretary must offer Mr Kazemi the opportunity to settle in the UK.

But Britain should also be doing more to protect the rights of gay and lesbian people abroad. No less than 85 countries still criminalize consensual same sex acts among adults and in five, like Iran, homosexuality is punishable by death.  Illegality renders gay men and lesbians in these countries invisible, robbing them of their rights and subjecting them to state sanctioned harassment, imprisonment, corporal punishment and even death.

The UK should be playing a lead role globally to end this situation. The appointment of a special ambassador to build international support for the universal decriminalisation of homosexuality would be a concrete first step.

I've written to the Independent along similar lines.

For more information

A life or death decision

Brutal land where homosexuality is punishable by death

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