Asylum seeker who sold a kidney to flee homophobic Pakistan wins crucial legal battle in bid to remain in UK

Gay sex is criminalised in Pakistan under a combination of Sharia law principles and colonial law imposed by British rulers.

A gay asylum seeker who feared he’d be killed if he returned to Pakistan has won a legal battle in his bid to overturn a Home Office decision to deport him.

The man, known only as AR, claimed he had to sell a kidney to pay for his flight to the UK in 2004, after being arrested for allegedly having gay sex the previous year.

He initially moved to Glasgow on a one-year working visa, but later claimed asylum in 2007.

The Home Office decided to have him removed from the UK in 2019. The same year, tribunal judges ruled against the man, siding with the Home Office.

The case was then brought to the Upper Tribunal , which is responsible for handling appeals for asylum and immigration applications – but they refused to hear an appeal against the decision.

The man’s legal team took the case to the Court of Session, Scotland’s supreme civil court.

In an opinion dated Wednesday (27 January) Lord Doherty, a judge in the Supreme Courts of Scotland, said the Upper Tribunal should “consider afresh the application”. Doherty wrote: “The Upper Tribunal’s decision should be reduced. It will then be for the UT to consider afresh the application for permission.”

Gay sex is criminalised in Pakistan, with possible penalties of life imprisonment or 100 lashes.

The court heard that under religious laws, gay people in Pakistan can potentially being killed because of their sexuality.

Pakistan’s Penal Code 1860 criminalises “carnal intercourse against the order of nature”, which applies to men having sex with men. A hangover from British colonialism (Pakistan inherited the code from India after Partition), it holds a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

Gay sex is also criminalised under a law that bans sex outside of marriage, which includes all same-sex intercourse in Pakistan. The penalty under this law is death by stoning for married people or 100 lashes for unmarried people.

According to OutRight International, “societal opinion in relation to LGBT people is pervasively negative” in Pakistan.

The Home Office has received criticism in recent years for its treatment of LGBT+ asylum seekers.

In 2020, one gay asylum seeker who came to the UK as a teenager was ordered by a court to return to Algeria, where he has been threatened with death by his homophobic family.

In 2019, the Home Office was accused of having “falsely imprisoned” LGBT+ asylum seekers between 2014 and 2017. The Supreme Court ruled that they were viable for compensation for the “trauma”.