Gay refugees seek asylum in friendly South Africa

Once a place for hate, the new and improved nation now boasts one of the most accepting constitutions in the world.

By Hank Hyena

Published November 8, 1999 5:00PM (EST)

Nov. 8, 1999

Three gay men who fear death sentences or life imprisonment in their
homophobic homelands have applied for political asylum in South Africa,
reports the Cape Times.

A Ugandan and two Pakistani men have been granted temporary permits
while their applications are reviewed. They selected South Africa as their
sanctuary because it boasts one of the most gay-friendly constitutions in
the world, and recent legislation has specified that sexual orientation is a
legitimate reason for extending asylum.

Dr. Steven Kabiku fled his Uganda home to avoid life imprisonment,
after President Yoweri Museveni ordered the Central African nation's
Criminal Investigation Department to seek out homosexuals, lock them up
and charge them. "I am not a criminal," Kabiku told the Cape Times.
"I just want to live my life in peace."

The Pakistani couple fled their Islamic nation after a family member
threatened to notify local authorities of their intimacy. Pakistan is one
of 12 nations worldwide that inflicts a death sentence on same-sex
lovers; one method of execution is stoning.

Will South Africa become a rainbow umbrella for persecuted gays and
lesbians? Quite possibly, due to the intolerance that abounds in neighboring
hate-states. President Robert Mugabe of nearby Zimbabwe, for example, has
frequently labeled homosexuals as "worse than dogs or pigs," noted an article in Thursday's Daily Telegraph of London.

It's promising that South Africa -- a recent chancre of apartheid -- is now a bastion of human rights. Hopefully, its radiant turnaround can induce other nations to slacken their tyranny.

Hank Hyena

Hank Hyena is a former columnist for SF Gate, and a frequent contributor to Salon.

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