Homeless charity warns of increase in gay Muslims fleeing family violence

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The Albert Kennedy Trust, a charity which helps homeless LGBT young people, has said it is seeing an increase in the numbers of gay Muslims fleeing from forced marriages and family violence.

The charity told the BBC it had seen an increase in the numbers of gay Muslims contacting it for help in the last six months.

Trust worker Annie Southerst said: “They face threats of physical violence, actual violence and restriction of liberties.

“We’ve had people chased out of the house with knives and we have had issues around young people who had exorcisms planned to get rid of the gay demons, I suppose.

“They come to us because they’re homeless, or in danger of being homeless imminently. We sort out emergency accommodation for them.”

One visitor to the charity’s weekly drop-in session in London, 20-year-old student Suni, told the BBC he had been imprisoned in Pakistan for three months after his parents suspected he was gay.

Suni said he had been beaten by his family, who thought making him marry a woman would cure him of homosexuality.

Fazal Mahmood, who runs a support group for South Asian and Middle Eastern gay men called Himat, said that after young men and women in Muslim families reveal their sexual orientation, they are often asked to leave.

He said: “I’m proud to be a Muslim, I’m proud to be South Asian, Pakistani and I’m proud to be gay as well.

“Unfortunately a lot of parents don’t see that. All they see is ‘what is my community going to feel like when they find out my son or daughter is gay?’.”

The government dropped plans to make forcing someone into a marriage a crime, instead introducing Forced Marriage Protection orders in November 2008.

The Albert Kennedy Trust has used four in the last few months. They are court orders which, if breached, can result in a two-year prison sentence.

The head of the government department which deals with forced marriages said that gay and lesbian young people were particularly vulnerable to forced marriages.

Olaf Henricson-Bell said: “Forced marriage by its nature is an underground practice and the cases often go unreported.

“The individuals involved may be reluctant to mention sexuality when they ring us or when they bring their case to the attention of the authorities.”

The Forced Marriage Unit is to work with the Albert Kennedy Trust to produce guidance for gay charities when dealing with young people at risk of being forced into marriages.