Aderonke Apata has been campaigning to remain in the UK for over 10 years. Yet she is still being threatened with deportation to Nigeria.
47-year-old Apata is an award-winning LGBTQ rights campaigner and lesbian, whose partner, Happiness Agboro, also lives in the UK. At her judicial review hearing last week, the Home Secretary's barrister Andrew Bird argued that Apata can't be a lesbian as she has had children with a man. Bird also described Apata as a "lesbian stereotype", saying: "one can't be a heterosexual one day and a homosexual another". In Nigeria lesbians can face a jail sentence of up to 14 years.
The British government touts its gay rights credentials, but routinely endangers lives when it comes to one of the most important LGBTQ issues: asylum. LGBTQ people claiming asylum are told to 'prove' their sexuality. It remains unclear what counts as enough evidence. In Apata's case, despite having been arrested and tortured in Nigeria, where three of her family – including a former girlfriend and her son – were murdered, and despite having been diagnosed with PTSD while in detention in the UK, the Home Office still claims that a former relationship with a man invalidates her lesbianism.
Apata has used her campaigning experience to draw attention to this injustice - giving interviews and running an active Twitter account. With her approval, two queer students have set up the Solidarity with Aderonke Tumblr project in response to this remark, and the wider culture of racism, ignorance and disbelief facing LGBTQ asylum seekers. So far nearly 50 women of colour, migrants, lesbian, bi, queer and trans people have uploaded photos in solidarity with Apata.
Ranging from the heartfelt to the sarcastic, the photos tell stories of a range of lived experience. They show just how far the Home Office has to go before it can understand what it is really like to be a lesbian of colour, a migrant, a bi person or a queer. If the government believes it supports gay rights, or human rights, it should pay attention.
Here's a selection of them:
Credit: Reyes Sedano.
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