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28 January 2011updated 26 Sep 2015 1:17pm

Tell Theresa May: Brenda Namigadde must stay

The Ugandan lesbian faces imprisonment and even death if repatriated today. Sign the petition urgently!

By Thomas Calvocoressi

There are only twelve hours left. Following the tragic murder this week of the Ugandan openly gay activist, David Kato, who had fought long and hard for gay rights in Uganda for over a decade — and had just won a court victory against Rolling Stone, the Ugandan newspaper that had called for him to be hanged — the world’s attention is now turned urgently to Brenda Namigadde, the Ugandan lesbian whose future hangs agonisingly in the balance.

Brenda is currently interned in the Yarl’s Wood detention centre in the UK, having fled to Britain in 2003, but faces deportation back to Uganda in the next 12 hours, despite this new government’s promise to put an end to the repatriation of homosexuals if their lives would be endangered following a court ruling last July. At the time, Theresa May, the Home Secretary, said:

I welcome the ruling of the Supreme Court, which vindicates the position of the coalition Government. We have already promised to stop the removal of asylum-seekers who have had to leave particular countries because their sexual orientation or gender identification puts them at proven risk of imprisonment, torture or execution. I do not believe it is acceptable to send people home and expect them to hide their sexuality to avoid persecution.

If Brenda is repatriated there, she will be arrested as soon as her plane touches down, and there is every likelihood she will be tortured and murdered. The reason for her deportation? Apparently, despite her relationship with a woman — the Canadian Janet Hoffman with whom she lived in Uganda but has not seen since they both fled in 2003 following persecution — a judge has deemed her not to be gay. “She has been found not to have a right to remain here,” Matthew Coats, head of immigration at the UK Border Agency said. “An immigration judge found on the evidence before him that Ms Namigadde was not homosexual.”

Although Brenda doubtless is gay — and the fact she has to prove this seems horribly offensive in itself — at this critical stage the ins and out, ifs and maybes of her sexuality are largely irrelevant, and the baying, homophobic mob in Uganda are hardly ones for nuance. The facts remain: if Brenda Namigadde is sent back to Uganda, a country with one of the most hostile and punishing climates on earth for LGBT people, her life will be in danger. The New Statesman urges you to sign the petition now to prevent this.

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