safety abroad

Why This Brazilian Man’s Asylum Claim Is Great News for Uganda’s Soon-to-Be Gay Refugees

“In Brazil, I lived in constant fear for my life,” says twenty-seven-year-old Augusto Pereira de Souza, who scored an unusual asylum win from the Department of Homeland Security, which was convinced if he returned home, he would continue to face torment. That the United States has opened its doors to a man fleeing from one of the world’s most violently anti-gay countries, however, isn’t just great news for Souza, but it might be the type of hope Uganda’s gays are looking for.

Despite hiding his sexuality, Souza, now living in New Jersey, says he “still faced repeated beatings, attacks, and threats on my life because I was gay. At times I was attacked by skinheads and brutally beaten by cops. After the cops attack you and threaten your life for being gay, you learn quickly that there is no one that will protect you. For me, coming to the U.S. was a life or death decision.”

As it will be for many of Uganda’s gays, should the Anti-Homosexuality Bill become law. (Already, homosexuality there is a crime, which already establishes the groundwork for asylum claims.) And if Sec. of State Hillary Clinton‘s statements about Uganda’s proposed law are shared by the executive branch, then Homeland Security might find itself issuing even more writs of freedom from persecution.

But securing asylum is, as any attorney in the field can tell you, a most difficult process. There are rounds of reviews, exhaustive paperwork, and extensive case reviews. It is an extremely expensive undertaking; Souza’s own asylum claim was secured by three students at Columbia Law School’s Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic. And to begin an asylum claim, gay Ugandans will first have to get to the United States — no easy task, given the expense and visa difficulty.

So while we get to celebrate the victory of one man’s safety — where the U.S. government won’t force him back to a country with 180 reported LGBT murders in 2008 alone — we must acknowledge the plight is far from over. We’re not saying America’s borders must be open to anyone claiming persecution. But the U.S. must be part of the solution if it does do everything in its power to keep Uganda from legislatively approving murder for an entire class of people.

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  • dizzy spins

    I didnt realize Brazil was one of the world’s most violently anti-LGBT countries. With all the Brazilian transgenders and the vibrant gay scene around Carneval, i guess i thought it was fairly tolerant. Anyone know the story there?

  • Nick

    I wonder how difficult it will be to ask for asylum in Rurope if the wingnuts in the USA keep pushing to jail homosexuals and we continue to live without marriage rights.

  • Jonathan

    @dizzy spins: I lived in Brasil for a bit, and I found it fairly tolerant. I went to a pride parade in Bahia, and it was actually one of the biggest parties I’ve ever been to.

    However, much like the general attitude towards marijuana and a variety of sexual rights issues, the Brasilians generally prefer if everything you do is kept a secret or at least kept to the prescribed “gay” areas. Its easy to tell early on who you can and can’t tell. I knew many adult men there who were gay and fine with the unfortunate reality that they have to keep it on the DL.

    Brasil is a much more dangerous country than the US or Canada period. It’s no surprise that it’s more dangerous for queers, but like anywhere, you’ve got to have your head about you.

  • Ben

    @dizzy spins:

    From what I’ve heard, although Brazil’s cities are relatively tolerant, the more rural communities are extremely intolerant and bigoted. I’m not sure why this is.

    It may be due to the fact that gay, lesbian, and transsexual people have such a high profile in that country, which is otherwise very conservative and very much dominated by patriarchal and rigidly-gendered values. They have passed beyond the point where homosexuality and transsexuality are invisible, but have yet to reach the point where they are widely socially tolerated.

  • schlukitz

    No. 4 · Ben

    @dizzy spins:

    From what I’ve heard, although Brazil’s cities are relatively tolerant, the more rural communities are extremely intolerant and bigoted. I’m not sure why this is.

    Having lived in both rural communities as well as cities during the course of my life, I would have to say that it is not much different here in the USA.

    Sweetgrass, Montana, Pocatelo, Idaho and Podunk, USA, are not exactly islands of safety for LGBT people, as witnessed by police blotters across the country.

  • Ben


    You are right, of course (I am a native Montanan), but even though there is a significant degree of intolerance and violence towards LGBT people in America, Brazil’s level of violence is still significantly higher.

    But the difference between reported cases of violence and actual levels of violence may explain that discrepancy.

  • Same Crap

    “We’re not saying America’s borders must be open to anyone claiming persecution.”

    Why do the queertard editors hedge an otherwise not-useless post with garbage statements like this? The U.S. has an asylum policy in place for victims of all sorts of persecution, religious, political, gender violence to name a few. What’s wrong with saying that?

  • schlukitz

    No. 6 · Ben

    Thank you for your thoughts.

    No slur was intended towards Montanans in general. :) There are good and bad amongst all of us…even here in a supposedly “safe haven” like New York City.

    Incidentally, I made a 15,000 mile automobile sojourn around the US back in 1980 and I must say that I was very impressed with the natural beauty of your state. In fact, my then partner and I stopped for an hour or so to enjoy watching a country square dance we happened across and which was taking place in a small community somewhere in Montana, I forget just where.

    While we did not drop any hair pins, the folks we chatted with were most cordial and hospitable. :)

  • Jackie

    @dizzy spins:

    On the contrary, Brazil’s government has become one of the most HETEROPHOBIC ever in world history
    In fact, the current government spends MILLIONS of tax payers money to fund gay parades with massive party features, all carnival decor and choreography and feather costumes included.
    Apart from that, yes Brazil holds the biggest gay/transexual parties in the world during Carnaval and beyond.
    Besides, there are more gay clubs in Brazil than in the USA even, gay tourism is at its peak, gay saunas, etc
    I am Brazilian myself and am rather surprised by the motives used on this special visa request
    Best destination for gay tourists, ask anyone….

    ps: stats numbers should be backed up by evidence too ;)

  • Gimp

    “where the U.S. government won’t force him back to a country with 180 reported LGBT murders in 2008 alone — we must acknowledge the plight is far from over. We’re not saying America’s borders must be open to anyone claiming persecution.”

    Its a lie!In the my Country, Brazil, 50.000 Brazilians were killed in 1 year. ok, the Gay Groups say: In the Brazil kill 180 homossexuals to year! make the accounts: if 50,000 Brazilian are killed , only 180 were homossexuals! So,Then life is worth less in the other groups?
    Women, men, kids?

    Brazil is champion in violence…All are in danger. Not Only the Gays. So, for have a Green Card, just need to be a gay discriminated. All the people are discriminated in my country! All the people is in danger!

  • Yuri

    This was without no doubt a bogus claim just to gain asylum. Like the last comment said, about 50000 people are murdered every year here, it’s obvious that the number of gays murdered are the ones the relatives or friends CLAIM that was caused by the sole fact that the person was gay. Judging that a general number you hear is that 10% of the population is gay, the real number of gays are close to 5000. So it’s about 28 times more likely to be killed by other reasons than being gay here, and again, I’m sure that this statistic is based only on CLAIMS that the person was killed because he/she was gay.
    Sure, you face prejudice here, I would say that in a similar rate of the U.S. , in both there are “gay areas”, like parades and gay clubs(yes, we have them too), and the farther you go from the bigger cities, the prejudice gets bigger.
    Also, in here, we have laws agains prejudice, and unlike in U.S. , althought there are no official marriages, long estabilished relationship between gays are considered to be the same as a marriage by the law(just like and heterosexual relationship without marriage) and gays are able to adopt kids here too.

  • Lucas

    Fala sério…
    o Brasil como um dos países mais violentos do mundo pra gays?
    Po so pode ser brincadeira, o filho da puta do brasileiro se achando esperto enganou os gringos pra conseguir ficar la e mandar grana pra mamae no sertao.
    vivi toda a minha vida em Sp e nunca me espancaram ou me maltrataram, acho que nem tem como, neo-nazis brasileiros batendo em putas ou travistis tambem nunca vi.
    nem tem muito neo-nazi aqui todo mundo e mulato.
    acho que ele tem mais hipoteses de tomar uma surra em nova iorque que no rio.
    fala serio… brasileiro e muito cara de pau.

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