Nigerian activist’s asylum appeal denied as judge doesn’t believe she’s a lesbian

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Aderonke Apata faces deportion after a High Court judge rules she “fabricated” her sexuality.

She says she faces persecution, imprisonment and even death if she returns to Nigeria, where she had been an outspoken gay rights activist before moving to the UK in 2004. Gay people can face 14 years in prison in Nigeria.Her applications for asylum were repeatedly denied as the Home Office did not believe she was really a lesbian.

In June last year, she even provided them with a video of her having sex in order to help her case. She is engaged to Happiness Agboro, also from Nigeria, who has already been granted asylum on the basis of her sexuality.

A Home Office barrister argued last month that Ms Apata cannot be a lesbian as she has children. He claimed that while she “indulged in same-sex activity” she was not “part of the social group known as lesbians”.

Deputy High Court Judge John Bowers QC this week said: “I find it difficult to disagree with the conclusions of the First Tier Tribunal that ‘she has engaged in same-sex relationships in detention in order to fabricate an asylum claim based on claimed lesbian sexuality’.

“I also accept the associated submission made by [the Home Office] that she has in effect adjusted her conduct so as to adopt other customs, dress and mores of a particular social group purely as a way of gaining refugee status.”

He mentioned the “impressive” amount of support she had received, including a petition signed by several hundred thousand people, but said that did not count as evidence. He disagreed that having children could be considered evidence against her, but did agree Ms Apata was not part of the “particular social group” of lesbians.

Human rights activist Peter Tatchell, who was present in court, said: It’s bizarre that the judge does not accept that Aderonke is a member of a particular social group, namely lesbian women. I find it offensive to suggest that she’s adopted the ‘customs, dress and mores’ of lesbian women purely in order to gain refugee status, given the evidence that she’s presented in her claim.

“The worst aspect of the  ruling is the judge doesn’t accept that she has a well founded fear of persecution if she returns to Nigeria. It’s clear that she’s been publicly identified in the UK and in Nigeria as a lesbian or bisexual woman. Such women face the twin threats of legal persecution and mob violence in Nigeria.”